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THE AET OF CONTROVERSY 



SCHOPENHAUER'S WORKS 

Crown 8vo, each 3s. &d. 

THE WISDOM OF LIFE 
COUNSELS AND MAXIMS 
RELIGION, A DIALOGUE, ETC 
THE ART OF LITERATURE 
STUDIES IN PESSIMISM 
ON HUMAN NATURE 
THE ART OF CONTROVERSY 



THE BASIS OF MORALITY 6s. NET. 
LONDON : GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD. 



THE ART OF CONTROVERSY 

Hnfc tbcr postbumous papers 



BY 

AETHUB SOHOPENHAUEE 

Si guis, toto die current, pervenit ad vesperam, satis est 
PETBABOH : DK 



SELECTED AND TRANSLATED 

BY 

T. BAILEY SAUNDEBS, M.A. 




LONDON : QEOEGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD. 
BUSKIN HOUSE 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.O. 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE. 

THE volume now before the reader is a t&rdy addition 
to a series in which I have endeavoured to present 
Schopenhauer's minor writings in an adequate form. 

Its contents are drawn entirely from his post- 
humous papers. A selection of them was given to 
the world some three or four years after his death 
by his friend and literary executor, Julius Frauenstadt, 
who, for this and other offices of piety, has received 
less recognition than he deserves. The papers then 
published haye recently been issued afresh, with con- 
siderable additions and corrections, by Dr. Eduard 
Grisebach, who is also entitled to gratitude for the 
care with which he has followed the text of the 
manuscripts, now in the Royal Library at Berlin, and 
for having drawn attention although in terms that 
are unnecessarily severe to a number of faults and 
failings on the part of the previous editor. 

The fact that all Schopenhauer's works, together 
with a volume of his correspondence, may now be 
obtained in a certain cheap collection of the best 
national and foreign literature displayed in almost 
every bookshop in Germany, is sufficient evidence that 
in his own country the writer's popularity is still very 
great; nor does the demand for translations indicate 
that his fame has at all diminished abroad The 



VI TRANSLATOR 8 PREFACE. 

favour with which the new edition of his post- 
humous papers has been received induces me, there- 
fore, to resume a task which I thought, five years ago, 
that I had finally completed ; and it is my intention 
to bring out one more volume, selected partly from 
these papers and partly from his Parerga. 

A small part of the essay on The Art of Controversy 
was published in Schopenhauer's lifetime, in the 
chapter of the Parerga headed Zur Logik und 
Dialektik. The intelligent reader will discover that 
a good deal of its contents is of an ironical character. 
As regards the last three essays I must observe 
that I have omitted such passages as appear to be no 
longer of any general interest or otherwise unsuitable. 
I must also confess to having taken one or two 
liberties with the titles, in order that they may the 
more effectively fulfil the purpose for which titles 
exist. In other respects I have adhered to the 
original with the kind of fidelity which aims at pro- 
ducing an impression as nearly as possible similar to 
that produced by the original. 

T. B. S. 
February, 1896. 



CONTENTS. 



THE ART OF CONTROVERSY 

1. PRELIMINARY: LOGIC AND DIALECTIC - - 1 

2. THE BASIS OF ALL DIALECTIC ----- 13 

3. STRATAGEMS ..... 15 
ON THE COMPARATIVE PLACE OF INTEREST AND BEAUTY IN 

WORKS OF ART ........ 49 

PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS; ...... 63 

ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE; APHORISMS ..... 75 

GENIUS AND VIRTUE ... 99 



THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

PRELIMINARY: LOGIC AND DIALECTIC. 

By the ancients, Logic and Dialectic were used as 
synonymous terms ; although \oyi&cr0at,, " to think 
over, to consider, to calculate," and SiaXcyeo-ffcu, 
" to converse," are two very different things. 

The name Dialectic was, as we are informed by 
Diogenes Laertius, first used by Plato; and in the 
Phcedrus, Sophist, Republic, bk. vii., and elsewhere, 
we find that by Dialectic he means the regular 
employment of the reason, and skill in the practice of 
it. Aristotle also uses the word in this sense ; but, 
according to Laurentius Valla, he was the first to use 
Logic too in a similar way. 1 Dialectic, therefore, 
seems to be an older word than Logic. Cicero and 
Quintilian use the words in the same general 
signification. 2 

1 He speaks of 8t/<rxt/>el<u Ao-yucai, that is, " difficult points," 



3 Cio. in Lucullo ; Dialecticam inventam esse, veri et falsi quasi 
diaceptatricem. Topica, o. 2 : Stoici enim judicandi vias diligenter 
persecuti sunt, ea scientia, quam Dialecticen appellant. Quint., lib. 
ii. t 12 : Itaque hoc pars dialecticae, rive illam disputatricem dicer e 
mattmus ; and with him this latter word appears to be the Latin 
equivalent for Dialectic. (So far according to <( Petri Rami dialec- 
tica, Audomari Talaei praeleotionibus illustrata ". 1569.) 



2 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

This use of the words as synonymous terms lasted 
through the Middle Ages into modern times ; in fact, 
until the present day. But more recently, and in 
particular by Kant, Dialectic has often been employed 
in a bad sense, as meaning " the art of sophistical con- 
troversy"; and hence Logic has been preferred, as of 
the two the more innocent designation. Neverthe- 
less, both originally meant the same thing ; and in the 
last few years they have again been recognised as 
synonymous. 

It is a pity that the words have thus been used 
from of old, and that I am not quite at liberty to 
distinguish their meanings. Otherwise, I should have 
preferred to define Logic (from \6<yo$, "word" and 
"reason," which are inseparable) as "the science of the 
laws of thought, that is, of the method of reason " ; 
and Dialectic (from ia\iy<r9ai y " to converse " and 
every conversation communicates either facts or 
opinions, that is to say, it is historical or deliberative) 
as " the art of disputation," in the modern sense of the 
word. It is clear, then, that Logic deals with a sub- 
ject of a purely a priori character, separable in 
definition from experience, namely, the laws of 
thought, the process of reason or the \6yo$ ; the laws, 
that is, which reason follows when it is left to itself 
and not hindered, as in the case of solitary thought 
on the part of a rational being who is in no way 
misled. Dialectic, on the other hand, would treat of 
the intercourse between two rational beings who, 
because they are rational, ought to think in common, 
but who, as soon as they cease to agree like two clocks 
keeping exactly the same time, create a disputation, 



LOGIC AND DIALECTIC. 3 

or intellectual contest. Regarded as purely rational 
beings, the individuals would, I say, necessarily be in 
agreement, and their variation springs from the 
difference essential to individuality ; in other words, 
it is drawn from experience. 

Logic, therefore, as the science of thought, or the 
science of the process of pure reason, should be 
capable of being constructed A priori. Dialectic, for 
the most part, can be constructed only d posteriori ; 
that is to say, we may learn its rules by an experi- 
ential knowledge of the disturbance which pure 
thought suffers through the difference of individuality 
manifested in the intercourse between two rational 
beings, and also by acquaintance with the means 
which disputants adopt in order to make good against 
one another their own individual thought, and to 
show that it is pure and objective. For human nature 
is such that if A. and B. are engaged in thinking in 
common, and are communicating their opinions to one 
another on any subject, so long as it is not a mere fact 
of history, and A. perceives that B.'s thoughts on one 
and the same subject are not the same as his own, he 
does not begin by revising his own process of think- 
ing, so as to discover any mistake which he may have 
made, but he assumes that the mistake has occurred 
in B/s. In other words, man is naturally obstinate ; 
and this quality in him is attended with certain 
results, treated of in the branch of knowledge which 
I should like to call Dialectic, but which, in order to 
avoid misunderstanding, I shall call Controversial or 
Eristical Dialectic. Accordingly, it is the branch of 
knowledge which treats of the obstinacy natural to 



4 THE ART OF CONTBOVEBSY. 

man. Eristic is only a harsher name for the same 
thing. 

Controversial Dialectic is the art of disputing, and 
of disputing in such a way as to hold one's own, 
whether one is in the right or the wrong per fas et 
nefas* 1 A man may be objectively in the right, and 
nevertheless in the eyes of bystanders, and sometimes 
in his own, he may come off worst. For example, I 
may advance a proof of some assertion, and my 
adversary may refute the proof, and thus appear to 
have refuted the assertion, for which there may, 
nevertheless, be other proofs. In this case, of course, 

1 According to Diogenes Laertius, v., 28, Aristotle put Rhetoric 
and Dialectic together, as aiming at persuasion, rb iriQwfo \ and 
Analytic and Philosophy as aiming at truth. Aristotle does, in- 
deed, distinguish between (1) Logic, or Analytic, as the theory or 
method of arriving at true or apodeictic conclusions; and (2) 
Dmlectic as the method of arriving at conclusions that are accepted 
or pass current as true, &>5oa, probabilia ; conclusions in regard to 
which it is not taken for granted that they are false, and also not 
taken for granted that they are true in themselves, since that is not 
the point. What is this but the art of being in the right, whether 
one has any reason for being so or not, in other words, the art of 
attaining the appearance of truth, regardless o! its substance ? That 
is, then, as I put it above. 

Aristotle divides all conclusions into logical and dialectical, in 
the manner described, and then into eristical. (8) Eristic is the 
method by which the form of the conclusion is correct, but the pre- 
misses, the materials from which it is drawn, are not true, but only 
appear to be true. Finally (4) Sophistic is the method in which 
the form of the conclusion is false, although it seems correct. 
These three last properly belong to the art of Controversial Dialec- 
tic, as they have no objective truth in view, but only the appear- 
ance of it, and pay no regard to truth itself ; that is to say, they 
aim at victory. Aristotle's book on Sophistic Conclusions was edited 
apart from the others, and at a later date. It was the last book of 
his Diabetic. 



LOGIC AND DIALECTIC. 5 

my adversary and I change places : he comes off best, 
although, as a matter of fact, he is in the wrong. 

If the reader asks how this is, I reply that it is 
simply the natural baseness of human nature. If 
human nature were not base, but thoroughly honour- 
able, we should in every debate have no other aim 
than the discovery of truth; we should not in the 
least care whether the truth proved to be in favour 
of the opinion which we had begun by expressing, 
or of the opinion of our adversary. That we 
should regard as a matter of no moment, or, at any 
rate, of very secondary consequence; but, as things 
are, it is the main concern. Our innate vanity, 
which is particularly sensitive in reference to our 
intellectual powers, will not suffer us to allow that 
our first position was wrong and our adversary's 
right. The way out of this difficulty would be simply 
to take the trouble always to form a correct judg- 
ment. For this a man would have to think before he 
spoke. But, with most men, innate vanity is accom- 
panied by loquacity and innate dishonesty. They 
speak before they think ; and even though they may 
afterwards perceive that they are wrong, and that 
what they assert is false, they want it to seem the 
contrary. The interest in truth, which may be pre- 
sumed to have been their only motive when they 
stated the proposition alleged to be true, now gives 
way to the interests of vanity : and so, for the sake 
of vanity, what is true must seem false, and what is 
false must seem true. 

However, this very dishonesty, this persistence in a 
proposition which seems false even to ourselves, has 



6 THE ART OP CONTROVERSY. 

something to be said for it. It often happens that we 
begin with the firm conviction of the truth of our 
statement; but our opponent's argument appears to 
refute it. Should we abandon our position at once, we 
may discover later on that we were right after all ; 
the proof we offered was false, but nevertheless there 
was a proof for our statement which was true. The 
argument which would have been our salvation did 
not occur to us at the moment. Hence we make it a 
rule to attack a counter-argument, even though to all 
appearances it is true and forcible, in the belief that 
its truth is only superficial, and that in the course of 
the dispute another argument will occur to us by 
which we may upset it, or succeed in confirming the 
truth of our statement. In this way we are almost 
compelled to become dishonest ; or, at any rate, the 
temptation to do so is very great. Thus it is that the 
weakness of our intellect and the perversity of our 
will lend each other mutual support ; and that, gener- 
ally, a disputant fights not for truth, but for his 
proposition, as though it were a battle pro aris et 
focis. He sets to work per fas et nefas ; nay, as we 
have seen, he cannot easily do otherwise. As a rule, 
then, every man will insist on maintaining whatever 
he has said, even though for the moment he may 
consider it false or doubtful. 1 

1 Machiavelli recommends his Prince to make use of every 
moment that his neighbour is weak, in order to attack him; as 
otherwise his neighbour may do the same. If honour and fidelity 
prevailed in the world, it would be a different matter ; but as these 
are qualities not to be expected, a man must not practise them 
himself, because he will meet with a bad return. It is just the 
same in a dispute : if I allow that my opponent is right as soon as 



LOGIC AND DIALECTIC. 7 

To some extent every man is armed against such 
a procedure by his own cunning and villainy. He 
learns by daily experience, and thus comes to have 
his own natural Dialectic, just as he has his own 
natural Logic. But his Dialectic is by no means 
as safe a guide as his Logic. It is not so easy for 
any one to think or draw an inference contrary to 
the laws of Logic; false judgments are frequent, false 
conclusions very rare. A man cannot easily be 
deficient in natural Logic, but he may very easily be 
deficient in natural Dialectic, which is a gift appor- 
tioned in unequal measure. In so far natural 
Dialectic resembles the faculty of judgment, which 
differs in degree with every man ; while reason, 
strictly speaking, is the same. For it often happens 
that in a matter in which a man is really in the right, 
he is confounded or refuted by merely superficial 
arguments ; and if he emerges victorious from a con- 
test, he owes it very often not so much to the correct- 
ness of his judgment in stating his proposition, as to 
the cunning and address with which he defended it. 

Here, as in all other cases, the best gifts are born 
with a man ; nevertheless, much may be done to make 

he seems to be so, it is scarcely probable that he will do the same 
when the position is reversed ; and as he acts wrongly, I am com- 
pelled to act wrongly too. It is easy to say that we must yield to 
truth, without any prepossession in favour of our own statements ; 
but we cannot assume that our opponent will do it, and therefore 
we cannot do it either. Nay, if I were to abandon the position on 
which I had previously bestowed much thought, as soon as it 
appeared that he was right, it might easily happen that I might 
bd misled by a momentary impression, and give up the truth in 
order to accept an error, 



8 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

him a master of this art by practice, and also by a 
consideration of the tactics which may be used to 
defeat an opponent, or which he uses himself for a 
similar purpose. Therefore, even though Logic may 
be of no very real, practical use, Dialectic may cer- 
tainly be so ; and Aristotle, too, seems to me to have 
drawn up his Logic proper, or Analytic, as a founda- 
tion and preparation for his Dialectic, and to have 
made this his chief business. Logic is concerned 
with the mere form of propositions ; Dialectic, with 
their contents or matter in a word, with their sub- 
stance. It was proper, therefore, to consider the 
general form of all propositions before proceeding to 
particulars. 

Aristotle does not define the object of Dialectic as 
exactly as I have done it here ; for while he allows 
that its principal object is disputation, he declares 
at the same time that it is also the discovery of 
truth. 1 Again, he says, later on, that if, from the 
philosophical point of view, propositions are dealt 
with according to their truth, Dialectic regards them 
according to their plausibility, or the measure in 
which they will win the approval and assent of 
others. 2 He is aware that the objective truth of a 
proposition must be distinguished and separated from 
the way in which it is pressed home, and approbation 
won for it ; but he fails to draw a sufficiently sharp 
distinction between these two aspects of the matter, 
so as to reserve Dialectic for the latter alone. 3 The 

1 Topica, bk. i., 2. 3 Ib. % 12. 

8 On the other hand, in his book De Sophisticis Elenchis, he takes 
too much trouble to separate Dialectic from Sophistic and Eristic, 



LOGIC AND DIALECTIC. 9 

rules which he often gives for Dialectic contain some 
of those which properly belong to Logic ; and hence 

where the distinction is said to consist in this, that dialectical 
conclusions are true in their form and their contents, while 
sophistical and eristical conclusions are false. 

Eristic so far differs from Sophistic that, while the master of 
Eristic aims at mere victory, the Sophist looks to the reputation, 
and with it, the monetary rewards which he will gain. But 
whether a proposition is true in respect of its contents is far too 
uncertain a matter to form the foundation of the distinction in 
question ; and it is a matter on which the disputant least of all 
can arrive at certainty ; nor is it disclosed in any very sure form 
even by the result of the disputation. Therefore, when Aristotle 
speaks of Dialectic, we must include in it Sophistic, Eristic, and 
Peirastic, and define it as " the art of getting the best of it in a 
dispute," in which, unquestionably, the safest plan is to be in 
the right to begin with ; but this in itself is not enough in the 
existing disposition of mankind, and, on the other hand, with the 
weakness of the human intellect, it is not altogether necessary. 
Other expedients are required, which, just because they are un- 
necessary to the attainment of objective truth, may also be used 
when a man is objectively in the wrong ; and whether or not this 
is the case, is hardly ever a matter of complete certainty. 

I am of opinion, therefore, that a sharper distinction should be 
drawn between Dialectic and Logic than Aristotle has given us ; 
that to Logic we should assign objective truth as far as it is merely 
formal, and that Dialectic should be confined to the art of gaining 
one's point, and contrarily, that Sophistic and Eristic should not 
be distinguished from Dialectic in Aristotle's fashion, since the 
difference which he draws rests on objective and material truth ; 
and in regard to what this is, we cannot attain any clear certainty 
before discussion ; but we are compelled, with Pilate, to ask, What 
is truth ? For truth is in the depths, Iv ptQy ft dA^0e<a (a saying of 
Democritus, Diog. Laert., ix., 72). Two men often engage in a warm 
dispute, and then return to their homes each of the other's 
opinion, which he has exchanged for his own. It is easy to say 
that in every dispute we should have no other aim than the ad- 
vancement of truth ; but before dispute no one knows where it is, 
and through bis opponent's arguments and his own a man is misled. 

2 



10 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

it appears to me that he has not provided a clear 
solution of the problem. 

We must always keep the subject of one branch of 
knowledge quite distinct from that of any other. To 
form a clear idea of the province of Dialectic, we must 
pay no attention to objective truth, which is an affair 
of Logic ; we must regard it simply as the art of 
getting the best of it in a dispute, which, as we have 
seen, is all the easier if we are actually in the right. 
In itself Dialectic has nothing to do but to show how 
a man may defend himself against attacks of every 
kind, and especially against .dishonest attacks ; and, 
in the same fashion, how he may attack another 
man's statement without contradicting himself, or 
generally without being defeated. The discovery of 
objective truth must be separated from the art of 
winning acceptance for propositions ; for objective 
truth is an entirely different matter : it is the busi- 
ness of sound judgment, reflection and experience, for 
which there is no special art. 

Such, then, is the aim of Dialectic. It has been 
defined as the Logic of appearance ; but the definition 
is a wrong one, as in that case it could only be used 
to repel false propositions. But even when a man has 
the right on his side, he needs Dialectic in order to 
defend and maintain it ; he must know what the 
dishonest tricks are, in order to meet them ; nay, he 
must often make use of them himself, so as to beat 
the enemy with his own weapons. 

Accordingly, in a dialectical contest we must put 
objective truth aside, or, rather, we must regard it as 
aft accidental circumstance, and look only to the 



LOGIC AND BIALECTIC. 11 

defence of our own position and the refutation of our 
opponent's. 

In following out the rules to this end, no respect 
should be paid to objective truth, because we usually do 
not know where the truth lies. As I have said, a man 
often does not himself know whether he is in the 
right or not ; he often believes it, and is mistaken : 
both sides often believe it. Truth is in the depths. 
At the beginning of a contest each man believes, as a 
rule, that right is on his side ; in the course of it, both 
become doubtful, and the truth is not determined or 
confirmed until the close. 

Dialectic, then, need have nothing to do with truth, 
as little as the fencing master considers who is in the 
right when a dispute leads to a duel. Thrust and 
parry is the whole business. Dialectic is the art of 
intellectual fencing ; and it is only when we so regard 
it that we can erect it into a branch of knowledge. 
For if we take purely objective truth as our aim, we 
are reduced to mere Logic ; if we take the maintenance 
of false propositions, it is mere Sophistic ; and in 
either case it would have to be assumed that we were 
aware of what was true and what was false ; and it 
is seldom that we have any clear ide^ of the truth 
beforehand. The true conception of Dialectic is, then, 
that which we have formed : it is the art of intellect- 
ual fencing used for the purpose of getting the best 
of it in a dispute ; and, although the name Eristic 
would be more suitable, it is more correct to call it 
controversial Dialectic, Dialectica eristica. 

Dialectic in this sense of the word has no other aim 
but to reduce to a regular system and collect and 



12 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

exhibit the arts which most men employ when they 
observe, in a dispute, that truth is not on their side, 
and still attempt to gain the day. Hence, it would be 
very inexpedient to pay any regard to objective truth 
or its advancement in a science of Dialectic ; since this 
is not done in that original and natural Dialectic in- 
nate in men, where they strive for nothing but vic- 
tory. The science of Dialectic, in one sense of the 
word, is mainly concerned to tabulate and analyse 
dishonest stratagems, in order that in a real debate 
they may be at once recognised and defeated. It is 
for this very reason that Dialectic must admittedly 
take victory, and not objective truth, for its aim and 
purpose. 

I am not aware that anything has been done in this 
direction, although I have made inquiries far and 
wide, 1 It is, therefore, an uncultivated soil. To 
accomplish our purpose, we must draw from our 
experience ; we must observe how in the debates 
which often arise in our intercourse with our fellow- 
men this or that stratagem is employed by one side 
or the other. By finding out the common elements in 
tricks repeated in different forms, we shall be enabled 
to exhibit certain general stratagems which may be 
advantageous, as well for our own use, as for frus- 
trating others if they use them. 

What follows is to be regarded as a first attempt. 

1 Diogenes Laertes tells us that among the numerous writings 
on Rhetoric by Theophrastus, all of which have been lost, there 
was one entitled 'A.ywviaTiKbv rys vcpl TOVS IpHrrtKoi/s \4yovs 
That would have been just what we want. 



THE BASIS OF ALL DIALECTIC. 13 

THE BASIS OF ALL DIALECTIC. 

First of all, we must consider the essential nature 
of every dispute : what it is that really takes place 
in it. 

Our opponent has stated a thesis, or we ourselves, 
it is all one. There are two modes of refuting it, 
and two courses that we may pursue. 

I. The modes are (1) ad rem, (2) ad hominem or 
ex concessis. That is to say : We may show either 
that the proposition is not in accordance with the 
nature of things, i.e., with absolute, objective truth ; or 
that it is inconsistent with other statements or ad- 
missions of our opponent, i.e., with truth as it appears 
to him. The latter mode of arguing a question pro- 
duces only a relative conviction, and makes no differ- 
ence whatever to the objective truth of the matter. 

II. The two courses that we may pursue are (1) the 
direct, and (2) the indirect refutation. The direct 
attacks the reason for the thesis ; the indirect, its 
results. The direct refutation shows that the thesis is 
not true ; the indirect, that it cannot be true. 

The direct course admits of a twofold procedure. 
Either we may show that the reasons for the state- 
ment are false (nego majorem, minorem)] or we may 
admit the reasons or premisses, but show that the 
statement does not follow from them (nego conse- 
quentiam) ; that is, we attack the conclusion or form 
of the syllogism. 

The direct refutation makes use either of the diver- 
sion or of the instance. 

(a) The diversion, We accept our opponent's pro- 



14 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

position as true, and then show what follows from it 
when we bring it into connection with some other 
proposition acknowledged to be true. We use the two 
propositions as tho premisses of a syllogism giving a 
conclusion which is manifestly false, as contradicting 
either the nature of things, 1 or other statements of 
our opponent himself; that is to say, the conclusion 
is false either ad rem or ad hominem.' 2 Consequently, 
our opponent's proposition must have been false ; for, 
while true premisses can give only a true conclusion, 
false premisses need not always give a false one. 

(6) The instance, or the example to the contrary. 
This consists in refuting the general proposition by 
direct reference to particular cases which are included 
in it in the way in which it is stated, but to which it 
does not apply, and by which it is therefore shown 
to be necessarily false. 

Such is the framework or skeleton of all forms of 
disputation; for to this every kind of controversy 
may be ultimately reduced. The whole of a con- 
troversy may, however, actually proceed in the 
manner described, or only appear to do so ; and it may 
be supported by genuine or spurious arguments. It 
is just because it is not easy to make out the truth 
in regard to this matter, that debates are so long and 
so obstinate. 

Nor can we, in ordering the argument, separate 
actual from apparent truth, since even the disputants 
are not certain about it beforehand Therefore I 

l lt it is in direct contradiction with a perfectly undoubted 
truth, we have reduced our opponent's position ad absurdum. 
* Socrates, in Hippia Maj. et alias, 



STRATAGEMS. 15 

shall describe the various tricks or stratagems with- 
out regard to questions of objective truth or falsity ; 
for that is a matter on which we have no assurance, 
and which cannot be determined previously. More- 
over, in every disputation or argument on any subject 
we must agree about something ; and by this, as 
a principle, we must be willing to judge the matter 
in question. We cannot argue with those who deny 
principles : Contra negantem principia non eat die- 
putandum. 

STRATAGEMS. 

I. 

The Extension. This consists in carrying your op- 
ponent's proposition beyond its natural limits ; in 
giving it as general a signification and as wide a sense 
as possible, so as to exaggerate it ; and, on the other 
hand, in giving your own proposition as restricted a 
sense and as narrow limits as you can, because the 
more general a statement becomes, the more numer- 
ous are the objections to which it is open. The defence 
consists in an accurate statement of the point or essen- 
tial question at issue. 

Example 1. I asserted that the English were 
supreme in drama. My opponent attempted to give an 
instance to the contrary, and replied that it was a well- 
known fact that in music, and consequently in opera, 
they could do nothing at all. I repelled the attack by 
reminding him that music was not included in dramatic 
art, which covered tragedy and comedy alone. This 
he knew very well. What he had done was to try 



16 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

to generalise my proposition, so that it would apply 
to all theatrical representations, and, consequently, 
to opera and then to music, in order to make certain 
of defeating ma Contrarily, we may save our pro- 
position by reducing it within narrower limits than 
we had first intended, if our way of expressing it 
favours this expedient. 

Example 2. A. declares that the Peace of 1814 
gave back their independence to all the German towns 
of the Hanseatic League. B. gives an instance to the 
contrary by reciting the fact that Dantzig, which 
received its independence from Buonaparte, lost it by 
that Peace. A. saves himself thus : " I said ' all 
German towns/ and Dantzig was in Poland ". 

This trick was mentioned by Aristotle in the To- 
pica (bk. viii., cc. 11, 12). 

Example 3. Lamarck, in his Philosophic Zoologique 
(vol. i., p. 203), states that the polype has no feeling, 
because it has no nerves. It is certain, however, that 
it has some sort of perception ; for it advances towards 
light by moving in an ingenious fashion from branch 
to branch, and it seizes its prey. Hence it has been 
assumed that its nervous system is spread over the 
whole of its body in equal measure, as though it were 
blended with it; for it is obvious that the polype 
possesses some faculty of perception without having 
any separate organs of sense. Since this assumption 
refutes Lamarck'^ position, he argues thus : " In that 
case all parts of its body must be capable of every 
kind of feeling, and also of motion, of will, of thought. 
The polype would have all the organs of the most 
perfect animal in every point of its body; every 



STRATAGEMS. 17 

point could 'see, smell, taste, hear, and so on ; nay, it 
could think, judge, and draw conclusions; every 
particle of its body would be a perfect animal, and it 
would stand higher than man, as every part of it 
would possess all the faculties which man possesses 
only in the whole of him. Further, there would be no 
reason for not extending what is true of the polype to 
all monads, the most imperfect of all creatures, and 
ultimately to the plants, which are also alive, etc., etc." 
By using dialectical tricks of this kind a writer 
betrays that he is secretly conscious of being in the 
wrong. Because it was said that the creature's whole 
body is sensitive to light, and is therefore possessed of 
nerves, he makes out that its whole body is capable of 
thought. 

II. 

The Homonymy. This trick is to extend a pro- 
position to something which has little or nothing in 
common with the matter in question but the simi- 
larity of the word; then to refute it triumphantly, 
and so claim credit for having refuted the original 
statement. 

It may be noted here that synonyms are two 
words for the same conception ; homonyms, two con- 
ceptions which are covered by the same word. (See 
Aristotle, Topica, bk. L, c. 13.) " Deep," " cutting," 
" high," used at one moment of bodies, at another of 
tones, are homonyms ; " honourable " and " honest " 
are synonyms. 

This is a trick which may be regarded as identical 



18 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

with the sophism ex homonymia; although, if the 
sophism is obvious, it will deceive no one. 
Every light can be extinguished. 
The intellect is a light. 
Therefore it can be extinguished. 
Here it is at once clear that there are four terms in 
the syllogism, " light " being used both in a real and 
in a metaphorical sense. But if the sophism takes a 
subtle form, it is, of course, apt to mislead, especially 
where the conceptions which are covered by the same 
word are related, and inclined to be interchangeable. 
It is never subtle enough to deceive, if it is used 
intentionally ; and therefore cases of it must be 
collected from actual and individual experience. 

It would be a very good thing if every trick could 
receive some short and obviously appropriate name, 
so that when a man used this or that particular trick, 
he could be at once reproached for it. 

I will give two examples of the homonymy. 

Example 1. A. : " You are not yet initiated into 
the mysteries of the Kantian philosophy." 

B. : " Oh, if it's mysteries you're talking of, 111 
have nothing to do with them/' 

Example 2. I condemned the principle involved in 
the word honour as a foolish one ; for, according to it, 
a man loses his honour by receiving an insult, which 
he cannot wipe out unless he replies with a still 
greater insult, or by shedding his adversary's blood or 
his own. I contended that a man's true honour cannot 
be outraged by what he suffers, but only and alone 
by what he does ; for there is no saying what may 
befall any one of us. My opponent immediately 



STRATAGEMS. 19 

attacked the reason I had given, and triumphantly 
proved to me that when a tradesman was falsely 
accused of misrepresentation, dishonesty, or neglect 
in his business, it was an attack upon his honour, 
which in this case was outraged solely by what he 
suffered, and that he could only retrieve it by punish- 
ing his aggressor and making him retract 

Here, by a homonymy, he was foisting civic 
honour, which is otherwise called good name, and 
which may be outraged by libel and slander, on to 
the conception of knightly honour, also called point 
d'honneur, which may be outraged by insult. And 
since an attack on the former cannot be disregarded, 
but must be repelled by public disproof, so, with the 
same justification, an attack on the latter must not be 
disregarded either, but it must be defeated by still 
greater insult and a duel. Here we have a confu- 
sion of two essentially different things through the 
homonymy in the word honour, and a consequent 
alteration of the point in dispute. 

HI 

Another trick is to take a proposition which is 
laid down relatively, and in reference to some par- 
ticular matter, as though it were uttered with a 
general or absolute application ; or, at least, to take it 
in some quite different sense, and then refute it. 
Aristotle's example is as follows : 

A Moor is black ; but in regard to his teeth he is 
white; therefore, he is black and not black at the 
same moment This is an obvious sophism, which will 



20 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

deceive no one. Let us contrast it with one drawn 
from actual experience. 

In talking of philosophy, I admitted that my 
system upheld the Quietists, and commended them. 
Shortly afterwards the conversation turned upon 
Hegel, and I maintained that his writings were mostly 
nonsense; or, at any rate, that there were many 
passages in them where the author wrote the words, 
and it was left to the reader to find a meaning for 
them. My opponent did not attempt to refute this 
assertion ad rem, but contented himself by advancing 
the argumentum ad hominem, and telling me that I 
had just been praising the Quietists, and that they 
had written a good deal of nonsense too. 

This I admitted ; but, by way of correcting him, I 
said that I had praised the Quietists, not as philoso- 
phers and writers, that is to say, for their achieve- 
ments in the sphere of theory, but only as men, and 
for their conduct in mere matters of practice ; and 
that in Hegel's case we were talking of theories. In 
this way I parried the attack. 

The first three tricks are of a kindred character. 
They have this in common, that something different 
is attacked from that which was asserted. It would 
therefore be an ignoratio elenchi to allow oneself to 
be disposed of in such a manner. 

For in all the examples that I have given, what the 
opponent says is true, but it stands in apparent 
and not in real contradiction with the thesis. All 
that the man whom he is attacking has to do is to 
deny the validity of his syllogism ; to deny, namely, 
the conclusion which he draws, that because his 



STRATAGEMS, 21 

proposition is true, ours is false. In this way his 
refutation is itself directly refuted by a denial of his 
conclusion, per negationem consequentiae. Another 
trick is to refuse to admit true premisses because of 
a foreseen conclusion. There are two ways of defeat- 
ing it, incorporated in the next two sections. 



IV. 

If you want to draw a conclusion, you must not 
let it be foreseen, but you must get the premisses 
admitted one by one, unobserved, mingling them here 
and there in your talk ; otherwise, your opponent will 
attempt all sorts of chicanery. Or, if it is doubtful 
whether your opponent will admit them, you must 
advance the premisses of these premisses ; that is to 
s ay> you must *draw up pro-syllogisms, and get the 
premisses of several of them admitted in no definite 
order. In this way you conceal your game until you 
have obtained all the admissions that are necessary, 
and so reach your goal by making a circuit. These 
rules are given by Aristotle in his Topica, bk. viii. 
c. 1. It is a trick which needs no illustration. 



V. 

To prove the truth of a proposition, you may also 
employ previous propositions that are not true, should 
your opponent refuse to admit the true ones, either 
because he fails to perceive their truth, or because he 
sees that the thesis immediately follows from them. 
In that case the plan is to take propositions which 



22 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

are false in themselves but true for your opponent, 
and argue from the way in which he thinks, that is to 
say, ex concessia. For a true conclusion may follow 
from false premisses, but not vice versd. In the same 
fashion your opponent's false propositions may be 
refuted by other false propositions, which he, how- 
ever, takes to be true; for it is with him that you 
have to do, and you must use the thoughts that he 
uses. For instance, if he is a member of some sect 
to which you do not belong, you may employ the 
declared opinions of this sect against him, as prin- 
ciples. 1 

VI 

Another plan is to beg the question in disguise by 
postulating what has to be proved, either (1) under 
another name ; for instance, " good repute " instead of 
" honour " ; " virtue " instead of " virginity," etc. ; or by 
using such convertible terms as " red-blooded animals " 
and " vertebrates " ; or (2) by making a general assump- 
tion covering the particular point in dispute; for 
instance, maintaining the uncertainty of medicine by 
postulating the uncertainty of all human knowledge. 
(3) If, vice verad, two things follow one from the 
other, and one is to be proved, you may postulate the 
other. (4) If a general proposition is to be proved, 
you may get your opponent to admit every one of 
the particulars. This is the converse of the second. 2 

1 Aristotle, Topica, bk. viii., chap. 2. 

3 Idem, chap. 11. The last chapter of this work contains some 
good rules for the practice of Dialectics. 



STRATAGEMS. 23 

VII 

Should the disputation be conducted on somewhat 
strict and formal lines, and there be a desire to arrive 
at a very clear understanding, he who states the pro- 
position and wants to prove it may proceed against 
his opponent by question, in order to show the truth 
of the statement from his admissions. This erote- 
matic, or Socratic, method was especially in use 
among the ancients ; and this and some of the tricks 
following later on are akin to it. 1 

The plan is to ask a great many wide-reaching 
questions at once, so as to hide what you want to get 
admitted, and, on the other hand, quickly propound 
the argument resulting from the admissions ; for 
those who are slow of understanding cannot follow 
accurately, and do not notice any mistakes or gaps 
there may be in 'the demonstration. 

VIII. 

This trick consists in making your opponent 
angry; for when he is angry he is incapable of 
judging aright, and perceiving where his advantage 
lies. You can make him angry by doing him 
repeated injustice, or practising some kind of chi- 
canery, and being generally insolent. 

IX. 

Or you may put questions in an order different 

from that which the conclusion to be drawn from 

1 They are all a free version of chap. 15 of Aristotle's De Sophistic* 



2$ THE ART OF CONTROVERSY 

them requires, and transpose them, so as not to let 
him know at what you are aiming. He can then take 
no precautions. You may also use his answers for 
different or even opposite conclusions, according to 
their character. This is akin to the trick of masking 
your procedure. 

X. 

If you observe that your opponent designedly re- 
turns a negative answer to the questions which, for 
the sake of your proposition, you want him to answer 
in the affirmative, you must ask the converse of the 
proposition, as though it were that which you were 
anxious to see affirmed ; or, at any rate, you may give 
him his choice of both, so that he may not perceive 
which of them you are asking him to affirm. 

XI 

If you make an induction, and your opponent 
grants you the particular cases by which it is to be 
supported, you must refrain from asking him if he 
also admits the general truth which issues from the 
particulars, but introduce it afterwards as a settled 
and admitted fact ; for, in the meanwhile, he will 
himself come to believe that he has admitted it, and 
the same impression will be received by the audience, 
because they will remember the many questions as to 
the particulars, and suppose that they must, of course, 
have attained their end. 

XII. 

If the conversation turns upon some general con- 



STRATAGEMS. 25 

ception which has no particular name, but requires 
some figurative or metaphorical designation, you must 
begin by choosing a metaphor that is favourable to 
your proposition. For instance, the names used to 
denote the two political parties in Spain, Serviles and 
Liberates, are obviously chosen by the latter. The 
name Protestants is chosen by themselves, and also 
the name Evangelicals ; but the Catholics call them 
heretics. Similarly, in regard to the names of things 
which admit of a more exact and definite meaning : 
for example, if your opponent proposes an alteration, 
you can call it an innovation, as this is an invidious 
word. If you yourself make the proposal, it will be 
the converse. In the first case, you can call the anta- 
gonistic principle " the existing order," in the second, 
" antiquated prejudice ". What an impartial man with 
no further purpose to serve would call " public worship " 
or a " system of religion," is described by an adherent 
as " piety," " godliness " ; and by an opponent as 
" bigotry," " superstition ". This is, at bottom, a subtle 
petitio principii. What is sought to be proved is, 
first of all, inserted in the definition, whence it is then 
taken by mere analysis. What one man calls " placing 
in safe custody," another calls " throwing into prison ". 
A speaker often betrays his purpose beforehand by 
the names which he gives to things. One man talks 
of " the clergy" ; another, of " the priests ". 

Of all the tricks of controversy, this is the most 
frequent, and it is used instinctively. You hear of 
"religious zeal," or "fanaticism"; a "faux pas" a 
" piece of gallantry," or " adultery " ; an " equivocal," or 
a "bawdy" story ; " embarrassment," or " bankruptcy " ; 

3 



26 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

"through influence and connection," or by "bribery 
and nepotism " ; " sincere gratitude," or " good pay ". 

XIII. 

To make your opponent accept a proposition, you 
must give him the counter-proposition as well, leaving 
him his choice of the two; and you must render the 
contrast as glaring as you can, so that to avoid being 
paradoxical he will accept the proposition, which is thus 
made to look quite probable. For instance, if you want 
to make him admit that a boy must do everything that 
his father tells him to do, ask him " whether in all 
things we must obey or disobey our parents ". Or, if 
a thing is said to occur "often," ask whether by 
" often " you are to understand few or many cases ; 
and he will say " many ". It is as though you were 
to put grey next black, and call it white; or next 
white, and call it black. 

XIV. 

This, which is an impudent trick, is played as fol- 
lows : When your opponent has answered several of 
your questions without the answers turning out favour- 
able to the conclusion at which you are aiming, advance 
the desired conclusion, although it does not in the 
least follow, as though it had been proved, and pro- 
claim it in a tone of triumph. If your opponent is 
shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal 
of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily 
succeed It is akin to the fallacy non causae ut 
causae, 



STRATAGEMS. 27 

XV. 

If you have advanced a paradoxical proposition and 
find a difficulty in proving it, you may submit for 
your opponent's acceptance or rejection some true pro- 
position, the truth of which, however, is not quite 
palpable, as though you wished to draw your proof 
from it. Should he reject it because he suspects a 
trick, you can obtain your triumph by showing how 
absurd he is ; should he accept it, you have got reason 
on your side for the moment, and must now look 
about you ; or else you can employ the previous 
trick as well, and maintain that your paradox is 
proved by the proposition which he has accepted. For 
this an extreme degree of impudence is required ; but 
experience shows cases of it, and there are people who 
practise it by ipstinct. 

XVI 

Another trick is to use arguments ad hominem, 
or ex concessis. 1 When your opponent makes a 

1 The truth from which I draw my proof may be either (1) of 
an objective and universally valid character ; in that case my proof 
is veracious, secundum veritateni ; and it is such proof alone that 
has any genuine validity. Or (2) it may be valid only for the 
person to whom I wish to prove my proposition, and with whom I 
am disputing. He has, that is to say, either taken up some position 
once for all as a prejudice, or hastily admitted it in the course of 
the dispute ; and on this I ground my proof. In that case, it is 
a proof valid only for this particular man, ad hominem. I compel 
my opponent to grant my proposition, but I fail to establish it as 
a truth of universal validity. My proof avails for my opponent 
alone, but for no one else. For example, if my opponent is a 



2ft THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

proposition, you must try to see whether it is not in 
some way if needs be, only apparently incon- 
sistent with some other proposition which he has 
made or admitted, or with the principles of a school 
or sect which he has commended and approved, or 
with the actions of those who support the sect, or 
else of those who give it only an apparent and 
spurious support, or with his own actions or want of 
action. For example, should he defend suicide, you 
may at once exclaim, " Why don't you hang your- 
self ?" Should he maintain that Berlin is an un- 
pleasant place to live in, you may say, " Why don't 
you leave by the first train ? " Some such claptrap 
is always possible. 

XVII. 

If your opponent presses you with a counter-proof, 
you will often be able to save yourself by advancing 
some subtle distinction, which, it is true, had not pre- 
viously occurred to you ; that is, if the matter admits 
of a double application, or of being taken in any am- 
biguous sense. 

XVIII. 

If you observe that your opponent has taken up a 
line of argument which will end in your defeat, you 

devotee of Kant's, and I ground my proof on some utterance of 
that philosopher, it is a proof which in itself is only ad hominem. 
If he is a Mohammedan, I may prove my point by reference to a 
passage in the Koran, and that is sufficient for him ; but here it is 
only a proof ad hominem. 



STRATAGEMS. 29 

must not allow him to carry it to its conclusion, but 
interrupt the course of the dispute in time, or break 
it off altogether, or lead him away from the subject, 
and bring him to others. In short, you must effect 
the trick which will be noticed later on, the mutatio 
controversiae. (See xxix.) 

XIX. 

Should your opponent expressly challenge you to 
produce any objection to some definite point in his 
argument, and you have nothing much to say, you 
must try to give the matter a general turn, and then 
talk against that. If you are called upon to say why 
a particular physical hypothesis cannot be accepted, 
you may speak of the fallibility of human knowledge, 
and give various illustrations of it. 

XX. 

When you have elicited all your premisses, and your 
opponent has admitted them, you must refrain from 
asking him for the conclusion, but draw it at once for 
yourself ; nay, even though one or other of the pre- 
misses should be lacking, you may take it as though 
it too had been admitted, and draw the conclusion. 
This trick is an application of the fallacy non causae 
ut 



XXI. 

When your opponent uses a merely superficial or 
sophistical argument and you see through it, you can, 



30 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

it is true, refute it by setting forth its captious and 
superficial character ; but it is better to meet him with 
a counter-argument which is just as superficial and 
sophistical, and so dispose of him ; for it is with victory 
that you are concerned, and nqt with truth. If, for 
example, he adopts an argumentum ad hominem, it 
is sufficient to take the force out of it by a counter 
argiMnentwrn, ad hominem or argumentum ex con- 
cessis ; and, in general, instead of setting forth the 
true state of the case at equal length, it is shorter to 
take this course if it lies open to you. 



XXII. 

If your opponent requires you to admit something 
from which the point in dispute will immediately 
follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that it is 
a petitio principii. For he and the audience will 
regard a proposition which is near akin to the point 
in dispute as identical with it, and in this way you 
deprive him of his best argument. 

XXIII. 

Contradiction and contention irritate a man into 
exaggerating his statement. By contradicting your 
opponent you may drive him into extending beyond its 
proper limits a statement which, at all events within 
those limits and in itself, is true ; and when you refute 
this exaggerated form of it, you look as though you 
had also refuted his original statement Contrarily, 
you must take care not to allow yourself to be misled 



STRATAGEMS. 31 

by contradiction into exaggerating or extending a 
statement of your own. It will often happen that 
your opponent will himself directly try to extend your 
statement further than you meant it ; here you must at 
once stop him, and bring him back to the limits which 
you set up : " That's what I said, and no more ". 

XXIV. 

This trick consists in stating a false syllogism. Your 
opponent makes a proposition, and by false inference 
and distortion of his ideas you force from it other 
propositions which it does not contain and he does not 
in the least mean ; nay, which are absurd or dangerous. 
It then looks as if his proposition gave rise to others 
which are inconsistent either with themselves or with 
some acknowledged truth, and so it appears to be in- 
directly refuted. This is the diversion, arid it is 
another application of the fallacy non causae ut 
causae. 

XXV. 

This is a case of the diversion by means of an in- 
stance to the contrary. With an induction (6^070)7^), 
a great number of particular instances are required 
in order to establish it as a universal proposition ; but 
with the diversion (aTray&yij) a single instance, to 
which the proposition does not apply, is all that is 
necessary to overthrow it. This is a controversial 
method known as the instance instantict,, Iwrracn?. 
For example, " all ruminants are horned " is a proposi- 
tion which may be upset by the single instance of the 



32 THE ART OF CONTHOVJSftSY. 

camel. The instance is a case in which a universal 
truth is sought to be applied, and something is in- 
serted in the fundamental definition of it which is 
not universally true, and by which it is upset. But 
there is room for mistake ; and when this trick is 
employed by your opponent, you must observe (1) 
whether the example which he gives is really true ; 
for there are problems of which the only true solution 
is that the case in point is not true for example) 
many miracles, ghost stories, and so on; and (2) 
whether it really comes under the conception of the 
truth thus stated ; for it may only appear to do so 
and the matter is one to be settled by precise dis- 
tinctions ; and (3) whether it is really inconsistent 
with this conception ; for this again may be only an 
apparent inconsistency. 

XXVI. 

A brilliant move is the retorsio argumenti, or 
turning of the tables, by which your opponent's argu- 
ment is turned against himself. He declares, for 
instance, " So-and-so is a child, you must make allow- 
ance for him''. You retort, "Just because he is a 
child, I must correct him otherwise he will persist in 
his bad habits ". 

XXVII. 

Should your opponent surprise you by becoming 
particularly angry at an argument, you must urge it 
with all the more zeal ; not only because it is a good 
thing to make him angry, but because it may be pre- 



STRATAGEMS. 33 

sumed that you have here put your finger on the 
weak side of his case, and that just here he is more 
open to attack than even for the moment you 
perceive. 



XXVIII. 

This is chiefly practicable in a dispute between 
scholars in the presence of the unlearned. If you 
have no argument ad rem, and none either ad 
kominem, you can make one ad auditores ; that is to 
say, you can start some invalid objection, which, how- 
ever, only an expert sees to be invalid. Now your 
opponent is an expert, but those who form your 
audience are not, and accordingly in their eyes he is 
defeated ; particularly if the objection which you 
make places him in any ridiculous light. People are 
ready to laugh, and you have the laughers on your 
side. To show that your objection is an idle one, 
would require a long explanation on the part of your 
opponent, and a reference to the principles of the 
branch of knowledge in question, or to the elements 
of the matter which you are discussing ; and people 
are not disposed to listen to it. 

For example, your opponent states that in the 
original formation of a mountain-range the granite 
and other elements in its composition were, by reason 
of their high temperature, in a fluid or molten state ; 
that the temperature must have amounted to some 
480 Fahrenheit and that when the mass took shape 
it was covered by the sea. You reply, by an argu- 
ment ad auditorea, that at that temperature nay, 



34> THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

indeed, long before it had been reached, namely, 
at 212 Fahrenheit the sea would have been boiled 
away, and spread through the air in the form of 
steam. At this the audience laughs. To refute the 
objection, your opponent would have to show that the 
boiling-point depends not only on the degree of 
warmth, but also on the atmospheric pressure ; and 
that as soon as about half the sea-water had gone oft 
in the shape of steam, this pressure would be so 
greatly increased that the rest of it would fail to boil 
even at a temperature of 480. He is debarred from 
giving this explanation, as it would require a treatise 
to demonstrate the matter to those who had no 
Acquaintance with physics. 

XXIX. i 

If you find that you are being worsted, you can 
make a diversion that is, you can suddenly begin to 
talk of something else, as though it had a bearing on 
the matter in dispute, and afforded an argument 
against your opponent. This may be done without 
presumption if the diversion has, in fact, some general 
bearing on the matter ; but it is a piece of impudence 
if it has nothing to do with the case, and is only 
brought in by way of attacking your opponent. 

For example, I praised the system prevailing in 
China, where there is no such thing as hereditary 
nobility, and offices are bestowed only on those 
who succeed in competitive examinations. My 
opponent maintained that learning, as little as the 

i See J xviii. 



STRATAGEMS. 35 

privilege of birth (of which he had a high opinion), 
fits a man for office. We argued, and he got the worst 
of it. Then he made a diversion, and declared that 
in China all ranks were punished with the bastinado, 
which he connected with the immoderate indulgence 
in tea, and proceeded to make both of them a subject 
of reproach to the Chinese. To follow him into all 
this would have been to allow oneself to be drawn 
into a surrender of the victory which had already 
been won. 

The diversion is mere impudence if it completely 
abandons the point in dispute, and raises, for instance, 
some such objection as " Yes, and you also said just 
now," and so on. For then the argument becomes to 
some extent personal ; of the kind which will be 
treated of in the last section. Strictly speaking, it is 
half-way between the argumentum ad personam, 
which will there be discussed, and the argu/mentum 
ad hominem. 

How very innate this trick is, may be seen in every 
quarrel between common people. If one of the parties 
makes some personal reproach against the other, the 
latter, instead of answering it by refuting it, allows 
it to stand, as it were, admits it; and replies by 
reproaching his antagonist on some other ground. 
This is a stratagem like that pursued by Scipio when 
he attacked the Carthaginians, not in Italy, but in 
Africa. In war, diversions of this kind may be profit- 
able; but in a quarrel they are poor expedients, 
because the reproaches remain, and those who look on 
hear the worst that can be said of both parties. It is 
a trick that should be used only faute de mieux, 



36 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

XXX. 

This is the argumentum ad verecundiam. It con- 
sists in making an appeal to authority rather than 
reason, and in using such an authority as may suit the 
degree of knowledge possessed by your opponent. 

Every man prefers belief to the exercise of judg- 
ment, says Seneca ; and it is therefore an easy matter 
if you have an authority on your side which your 
opponent respects. The more limited his capacity 
and knowledge, the greater is the number of the 
authorities who weigh with him. But if his capacity 
and knowledge are of a high order, there are very 
few ; indeed, hardly any at all. He may, perhaps, 
admit the authority of professional men versed in a 
science or an art or a handicraft of which he knows 
little or nothing ; but even so he will regard it with 
suspicion. Contrarily, ordinary folk have a deep 
respect for professional men of every kind. They 
are unaware that a man who makes a profession of 
a thing loves it not for the thing itself, but for the 
money he makes by it ; or that it is rare for a man 
who teaches to know his subject thoroughly; for if 
he studies it as he ought, he has in most cases no time 
left in which to teach it. 

But there are very many authorities who find 
respect with the mob, and if you have none that is 
quite suitable, you can take one that appears to be 
so ; you may quote what some said in another sense 
or in other circumstances. Authorities which your 
opponent fails to understand are those of which he 
generally thinks the most. The unlearned entertain 
a peculiar respect for a Greek or a Latin flourish. 



STKATAGEMS. 37 

You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist 
your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote 
something which you have invented entirely yourself. 
As a rule, your opponent has no books at hand, and 
could not use them if he had. The finest illustra- 
tion of this is furnished by the French curd, who, 
to avoid being compelled, like other citizens, to pave 
the street in front of his house, quoted a saying which 
he described as biblical : paveant illi, ego non pavebo. 
That was quite enough for the municipal officers. 

A universal prejudice may also be used as an 
authority ; for most people think with Aristotle that 
that may be said to exist which many believe. There 
is no opinion, however absurd, which men will not 
readily embrace as soon as they can be brought to the 
conviction that it is generally adopted. Example 
affects their thought just as it affects their action. 
They are like sheep following the bell-wether just 
as he leads them. They would sooner die than 
think. It is very curious that the universality of an 
opinion should have so much weight with people, as 
their own experience might tell them that its accept- 
ance is an entirely thoughtless and merely imitative 
process. But it tells them nothing of the kind, because 
they possess no self-knowledge whatever. It is only 
the elect who say with Plato : rofc TroXXofc TroXXA 
So/cei; which means that the public has a good many 
bees in its bonnet, and that it would be a long business 
to get at them. 

But to speak seriously, the universality of an 
opinion is no proof, nay, it is not even a probability, 
that the opinion is right. Those who maintain that it 



88 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

is so must assume (1) that length of time deprives a 
universal opinion of its demonstrative force, as other- 
wise all the old errors which were once universally 
held to be true would have to be recalled ; for instance, 
the Ptolemaic system would have to be restored, or 
Catholicism re-established in all Protestant countries. 
They must assume (2) that distance of space has the 
same effect ; otherwise the respective universality of 
opinion among the adherents of Buddhism, Chris- 
tianity, and Islam will put them in a difficulty. 

When we come to look into the matter, so-called 
universal opinion is the opinion of two or three per- 
sons ; and we should be persuaded of this if we could 
'see the way in which it really arises. 

We should find that it is two or three persons who, 
in the first instance, accepted it, or advanced and 
maintained it ; and of whom people were so good as to 
believe that they had thoroughly tested it. Then a 
few other persons, persuaded beforehand that the 
first were men of the requisite capacity, also accepted 
the opinion. These, again, were trusted by many 
others, whose laziness suggested to them that it was 
better to believe at once, than to go through the 
troublesome task of testing the matter for themselves. 
Thus the number of these lazy and credulous ad- 
herents grew from day to day ; for the opinion had 
no sooner obtained a fair measure of support than its 
further supporters attributed this to the fact that the 
opinion could only have obtained it by the cogency of 
its arguments. The remainder were then compelled 
to grant what was universally granted, so as not to 
pass for unruly persons who resisted opinions which 



STRATAGEMS. 39 

every one accepted, or pert fellows who thought 
themselves cleverer than any one else. 

When opinion reaches this stage, adhesion becomes 
a duty; and henceforward the few who are capable 
of forming a judgment hold their peace. Those 
who venture to speak are such as are entirely in- 
capable of forming any opinions or any judgment of 
their own, being merely the echo of others' opinions ; 
and, nevertheless, they defend them with all the 
greater zeal and intolerance. For what they hate in 
people who think differently is not so much the differ- 
ent opinions which they profess, as the presumption of 
wanting to form their own judgment ; a presumption 
of which they themselves are never guilty, as they 
are very well aware. In short, there are very few 
who can think, but every man wants to have an 
opinion ; and what remains but to take it ready- 
made from others, instead of forming opinions for 
himself ? 

Since this is what happens, where is the value of 
the opinion even of a hundred millions ? It is no more 
established than an historical fact reported by a hun- 
dred chroniclers who can be proved to have plagiarised 
it from one another ; the opinion in the end being 
traceable to a single individual. 1 It is all what I say, 
what you say, and, finally, what he says ; and the 
whole of it is nothing but a series of assertions : 

Dice igo, tu dicis t sed denique dixit et ille ; 
Dictaque post toties, nil nisi dicta vides. 

Nevertheless, in a dispute with ordinary people, we 
may employ universal opinion as an authority. For 

1 See Bayle's Pena&s sur les Comttes, i., p. 10. 



40 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

it will generally be found that when two of them are 
fighting, that is the weapon which both of them 
choose as a means of attack. If a man of the better 
sort has to deal with them, it is most advisable for 
him to condescend to the use of this weapon too, and 
to select such authorities as will make an impression 
on his opponent's weak side. For, ex hypothesi, he is 
as insensible to all rational argument as a horny- 
hided Siegfried, dipped in the flood of incapacity, and 
unable to think or judge. 

Before a tribunal the dispute is one between author- 
ities alone, such authoritative statements, I mean, as 
are laid down by legal experts ; and here the exercise 
of judgment consists in discovering what law or 
authority applies to the case in question. There is, 
however, plenty of room for Dialectic ; for should the 
case in question and the law not really fit each other, 
they can, if necessary, be twisted until they appear 
to do so, or vice verad. 



XXXI. 

If you know that you have no reply to the arguments 
which your opponent advances, you may, by a fine 
stroke of irony, declare yourself to be an incompetent 
judge : " What you now say passes my poor powers of 
comprehension ; it may be all very true, but I can't 
understand it, and I refrain from any expression of 
opinion on it ". In this way you insinuate to the by- 
standers, with whom you are in good repute, that 
what your opponent says is nonsense. Thus, when 
Kant's Kritik appeared, or, rather, when it began to 



STRATAGEMS. 41 

make a noise in the world, many professors of the 
old eclectic school declared that they failed to under- 
stand it, in the belief that their failure settled the 
business. But when the adherents of the new school 
proved to them that they were quite right, and had 
really failed to understand it, they were in a very bad 
humour. 

This is a trick which may be used only when you 
are quite sure that the audience thinks much better 
of you than of your opponent. A professor, for in- 
stance, may try it on a student. 

Strictly, it is a case of the preceding trick : it is 
a particularly malicious assertion of one's own author- 
ity, instead of giving reasons. The counter-trick is 
to say : " I beg your pardon ; but, with your pene- 
trating intellect, it must be very easy for you to 
understand anything; and it can only be my poor 
statement of the matter that is at fault " ; and then 
go on to rub it into him until he understands it 
nolens volens, and sees for himself that it was really 
his own fault alone. In this way you parry his 
attack. With the greatest politeness he wanted to 
insinuate that you were talking nonsense; and you, 
with equal courtesy, prove to him that he is a fool. 

XXXII 

If you are confronted with an assertion, there is a 
short way of getting rid of it, or, at any rate, of 
throwing suspicion on it, by putting it into some odious 
category ; even though the connection is only apparent, 
or else of a loose character. You can say, for in- 

4 



42 THE ART OF CONTEOVERSY. 

stance, " That is Manichseism," or " It is Arianism," or 
" Pelagianism," or " Idealism," or " Spinozism," or 
" Pantheism," or " Brownianism," or " Naturalism," or 
" Atheism" or " Rationalism," " Spiritualism," " Mysti- 
cism," and so on. In making an objection of this kind, 
you take it for granted (1) that the assertion in 
question is identical with, or is at least contained in, 
the category cited that is to say, you cry out, " Oh, 
I have heard that before " ; and (2) that the system 
referred to has been entirely refuted, and does not 
contain a word of truth. 

XXXIII, 

" That's all very well in theory, but it won't do in 
practice." In this sophism you admit the premisses 
but deny the conclusion, in contradiction with a well- 
known rule of logic. The assertion is based upon an 
impossibility : what is right in theory must work in 
practice ; and if it does not, there is a mistake in the 
theory ; something has been overlooked and not 
allowed for ; and, consequently, what is wrong in 
practice is wrong in theory too. 

XXXIV. 

When you state a question or an argument, and 
your opponent gives you no direct answer or reply, 
but evades it by a counter-question or an indirect 
answer, or some assertion which has no bearing on 
the matter, and, generally, tries to turn the subject, 
it is a sure .sign that you have touched a weak 
spot, sometimes without knowing it. You have, as it 



STRATAGEMS. 43 

were, reduced him to silence. You must, therefore, 
urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent 
evade it, even when you do not know where the 
weakness which you have hit upon really lies. 

XXXV. 

There is another trick which, as soon as it is prac- 
ticable, makes all others unnecessary. Instead of 
working on your opponent's intellect by argument, 
work on his will by motive ; and he, and also the 
audience if they have similar interests, will at once be 
won over to your opinion, even though you got it 
out of a lunatic asylum ; for, as a general rule, half 
an ounce of will is more effective than a hundred- 
weight of insight and intelligence. This, it is true, 
can be done* only under peculiar circumstances. If 
you succeed in making your opponent feel that his 
opinion, should it prove true, will be distinctly pre- 
judicial to his interest, he will let it drop like a 
hot potato, and feel that it was very imprudent to 
take it up. 

A clergyman, for instance, is defending some philo- 
sophical dogma ; you make him sensible of the fact that 
it is in immediate contradiction with one of the funda- 
mental doctrines of his Church, and he abandons it 

A landed proprietor maintains that the use of 
machinery in agricultural operations, as practised in 
England, is an excellent institution, since an engine 
does the work of many men. You give him to under- 
stand that it will not be very long before carriages are 
also worked by steam, and that the value of his large 



44 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

stud will be greatly depreciated ; and you will see what 
he will say. 

In such cases every man feels how thoughtless 
it is to sanction a law unjust to himself quam 
temere in nosmet legem sancimw iniquam ! Nor is 
it otherwise if the bystanders, but not your opponent, 
belong to the same sect, guild, industry, club, etc., as 
yourself. Let his thesis be never so true, as soon 
as you hint that it ia prejudicial to the common 
interests of the said society, all the bystanders will 
find that your opponent's arguments, however ex- 
cellent they be, are weak and contemptible ; and that 
yours, on the other hand, though they were random 
conjecture, are correct and to the point; you will 
have a chorus of loud approval on your side, and your 
opponent will be driven out of the field with ignominy. 
Nay, the bystanders will believe, as a rule, that they 
have agreed with you out of pure conviction. For 
what is not to our interest mostly seems absurd to 
us ; our intellect being no siccwm lumen. This trick 
might be called "taking the tree by its root"; its 
usual name is the argumentum ab utili. 

XXXVI. 

You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent 
by mere bombast ; and the trick is possible, because 
a man generally supposes that there must be some 
meaning in words : 

Gew&hnlich glaubt der Mengch, wenn er mtr Worte hitot, 
Es mUsse sick dabei dock auch was dcnfan lassen. 

If he is secretly conscious of his own weakness, and 



STRATAGEMS. 45 

accustomed to hear much that he does not under- 
stand, and to make as though he did, you can easily 
impose upon him by some serious fooling that sounds 
very deep or learned, and deprives him of hearing, 
sight, and thought ; and by giving out that it is the 
most indisputable proof of what you assert. It is a 
well-known fact that in recent times some philo- 
sophers have practised this trick on the whole of the 
public with the most brilliant success. But since 
present examples are odious, we may refer to The 
Vicar of Wakefield for an old one. 

XXXVII 

Should your opponent be in the right, but, luckily 
for your contention, choose a faulty proof, you can 
easily manage to refute it, and then claim that you 
have thus refuted his whole position. This is a trick 
which ought to be one of the first ; it is, at bottom, 
an expedient by which an argumentum ad hominem 
is put forward as an argumentum ad rem. If no 
accurate proof occurs to him or to the bystanders, 
you have won the day. For example, if a man 
advances the ontological argument by way of proving 
God's existence, you can get the best of him, for 
the ontological argument may easily be refuted. 
This is the way in which bad advocates lose a good 
case, by trying to justify it by an authority which 
does not fit it, when no fitting one occurs to them. 

XXXVIII. 
A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, 



46 THE ART OF CONTROVERSY. 

as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the 
upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. 
It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as 
from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in 
some way attacking his person. It may be called the 
argumentum ad perscmam, to distinguish it from the 
argumentum ad hominem, which passes from the 
objective discussion of the subject pure and simple to 
the statements or admissions which your opponent has 
made in regard to it. But in becoming personal you 
leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack to 
his person, by remarks of an offensive and spiteful 
character. It is an appeal from the virtues of the in- 
tellect to the virtues of the body, or to mere animal- 
ism. This is a very popular trick, because every one 
is able to carry it into effect ; and so it is of frequent 
application. Now the question is, What counter-trick 
avails for the other party ? for if he has recourse to 
the same rule, there will be blows, or a duel, or an 
action for slander. 

It would be a great mistake to suppose that it is 
sufficient not to become personal yourself. For by 
showing a man quite quietly that he is wrong, and 
that what he says and thinks is incorrect a process 
which occurs in every dialectical victory you em- 
bitter him more than if you used some rude or in- 
sulting expression. Why is this ? Because, as 
Hobbes observes, 1 all mental pleasure consists in 
being able to compare oneself with others to one's 
own advantage. Nothing is of greater moment to a 
man than the gratification of his vanity, and no 
1 KUmenta philosophica tie Give, 



STRATAGEMS. 47 

wound is more painful than that which is inflicted on 
it, Hence such phrases as " Death before dishonour," 
and So on. The gratification of vanity arises mainly 
by comparison of oneself with others, in every re- 
spect, but chiefly in respect of one's intellectual 
powers ; and so the most effective and the strongest 
gratification of it is to be found in controversy. Hence 
the embitterment of defeat, apart from any question 
of injustice ; and hence recourse to that last weapon, 
that last trick, which you cannot evade by mere 
politeness. A cool demeanour may, however, help 
you here, if, as soon as your opponent becomes per- 
sonal, you quietly reply, " That has no bearing on the 
point in dispute," and immediately bring the con- 
versation back to it, and continue to show him that he 
is wrong, without taking any notice of his insults. 
Say, as Themistoeles said to Eurybiades Strike, but 
hear me. But such demeanour is not given to every 
one. 

As a sharpening of wits, controversy is often, in- 
deed, of mutual advantage, in order to correct one's 
thoughts and awaken new views. But in learning 
and in mental power both disputants must be toler- 
ably equal. If one of them lacks learning, he will 
fail to understand the other, as he is not on the same 
level with his antagonist. If he lacks mental power, 
he will be embittered, and led into dishonest tricks, 
and end by being rude. 

The only safe rule, therefore, is that which Aristotle 
mentions in the last chapter of his Topica : not to 
dispute with the first person you meet, but only with 
those of your acquaintance of whom you know that 



48 THE ART OF CONTKOVEKSY. 

they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect 
not to advance absurdities ; to appeal to reason and 
not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it ; 
and, finally, to cherish truth, to be willing to accept 
reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough 
to bear being proved to be in the wrong, should truth 
lie with him. From this it follows that scarcely one 
man in a hundred is worth your disputing with him. 
You may let the remainder say what they please, for 
every one is at liberty to be a fool desipere est jus 
gentium. Remember what Voltaire says : La paix 
vaut encore mieux que la v6riU. Remember also an 
Arabian proverb which tells us that on the tree of 
silence there hangs its fruit, which is peace. 



ON THE COMPARATIVE PLACE OF INTEREST 
AND BEAUTY IN WORKS OF ART. 



51 



ON THE COMPARATIVE PLACE OF INTEREST 
AND BEAUTY IN WORKS OF ART. 

IN the productions of poetic genius, especially of 
the epic and dramatic kind, there is, apart from 
Beauty, another quality which is attractive : I mean 
Interest. 

The beauty of a work of art consists in the fact 
that it holds up a clear mirror to certain ideas 
inherent in the world in general ; the beauty of a 
work of poetic art in particular is that it renders the 
ideas inherent* in mankind, and thereby leads it to a 
knowledge of these ideas. The means which poetry 
uses for this end are the exhibition of significant 
characters and the invention of circumstances which 
will bring about significant situations, giving occasion 
to the characters to unfold their peculiarities anc 
show what is in them ; so that by some such repre 
sentation a clearer and fuller knowledge of the many- 
sided idea of humanity may be attained. Beauty, 
however, in its general aspect, is the inseparable 
characteristic of the idea when it has become known. 
In other words, everything is beautiful in which an 
idea is revealed ; for to be beautiful means no more 
than clearly to express an idea. 

Thus we perceive that beauty is always an affair 
of knowledge, and that it appeals to the knowing 



52 BEAUTY AND INTEREST 

subject, and not to the will ; nay, it is a fact that the 
apprehension of beauty on the part of the subject 
involves a complete suppression of the will. 

On the other hand, we call drama or descriptive 
poetry interesting when it represents events and 
actions of a kind which necessarily arouse concern or 
sympathy, like that which we feel in real events 
involving our own person. The fate of the person 
represented in them is felt in just the same fashion as 
our own : we await the development of events with 
anxiety ; we eagerly follow their course ; our hearts 
quicken when the hero is threatened; our pulse 
falters as the danger reaches its acme, and throbs 
again when he is suddenly rescued. Until we reach 
the end of the story we cannot put the book aside ; 
we lie awake far into the night sympathising with 
our hero's troubles as though they were our own. 
Nay, instead of finding pleasure and recreation in 
such representations, we should feel all the pain 
which real life often inflicts upon us, or at least the 
kind which pursues us in our uneasy dreams, if in 
the act of reading or looking at the stage we had not 
the firm ground of reality always beneath our feet. As 
it is, in the stress of a too violent feeling, we can find 
relief from the illusion of the moment, and then give 
way to it again at will. Moreover, we can gain this 
relief without any such violent transition as occurs 
in a dream, when we rid ourselves of its terrors 
only by the act of awaking. 

It is obvious that what is affected by poetry of this 
character is our will, and not merely our intellectual 
powers pure and simple. The word interest means, 



IN WORKS OF ART. 53 

therefore, that which arouses the concern of the indi- 
vidual will, quod nostrd interest ; and here it is that 
beauty is clearly distinguished from interest. The 
one is an affair of the intellect, and that, too, of the 
purest and simplest kind. The other works upon the 
will. Beauty, then, consists in an apprehension of 
ideas ; and knowledge of this character is beyond the 
range of the principle that nothing happens without 
a cause. Interest, on the other hand, has its origin 
nowhere but in the course of events ; that is to say, 
in the complexities which are possible only through 
the action of this principle in its different forms. 

We have now obtained a clear conception of the 
essential difference between the beauty and the 
interest of a work of art. We have recognised that 
beauty is the true end of every art, and therefore, 
also, of the poetic art. It now remains to raise the 
question whether the interest of a work of art is a 
second end, or a means to the exhibition of its beauty ; 
or whether the interest of it is produced by its 
beauty as an essential concomitant, and comes of 
itself as soon as it is beautiful ; or whether interest is 
at any rate compatible with the main end of art ; or, 
finally, whether it is a hindrance to it. 

In the first place, it is to be observed that the 
interest of a work of art is confined to works of 
poetic art. It does not exist in the case of fine art, 
or of music or architecture. Nay, with these forms 
of art it is not even conceivable, unless, indeed, the 
interest be of an entirely personal character, and con- 
fined to one or two spectators ; as, for example, where 
a picture is a portrait of some one whom we love or 



54 BEAUTY AND INTEREST 

hate; the building, my house or my prison; the 
music, my wedding dance, or the tune to which I 
marched to the war. Interest of this kind is clearly 
quite foreign to the essence and purpose of art; it 
disturbs our judgment in so far as it makes the 
purely artistic attitude impossible. It may be, indeed, 
that to a smaller extent this is true of all interest. 

Now, since the interest of a work of art lies in the 
fact that we have the same kind of sympathy with a 
poetic representation as with reality, it is obvious 
that the representation must deceive us for the 
moment ; and this it can do only by its truth. But 
truth is an element in perfect art. A picture, a poem, 
should be as true as nature itself ; but at the same 
time it should lay stress on whatever forms the 
unique character of its subject by drawing out all its 
essential manifestations, and by rejecting everything 
that is unessential and accidental. The picture or the 
poem will thus emphasise its idea, and give us that 
ideal truth which is superior to nature. 

Truth, then, forms the point that is common both 
to interest and beauty in a work of art, as it is its 
truth which produces the illusion. The fact that the 
truth of which I speak is ideal truth might, indeed, 
be detrimental to the illusion, since it is just here that 
we have the general difference between poetry and 
reality, art apd nature. But since it is possible for 
reality to coincide with the ideal, it is not actually 
necessary that this difference should destroy the illu- 
sion. In the case of the fine arts there is, in the 
range of the means which art adopts, a certain limit, 
and beyond it illusion is impossible. Sculpture, that 



IN WORKS OF ART. 55 

is to say, gives us mere colourless form ; its figures are 
without eyes and without movement; and painting 
provides us with no more than a single view, enclosed 
within strict limits, which separate the picture from 
the adjacent reality. Here, then, there is no room for 
illusion, and consequently none for that interest or 
sympathy which resembles the interest we have in 
reality; the will is at once excluded, and the object 
alone is presented to us in a manner that frees it from 
any personal concern. 

It is a highly remarkable fact that a spurious kind 
of fine art oversteps these limits, produces an illusion 
of reality, and arouses our interest ; but at the same 
time it destroys the effect which fine art pro- 
duces, and serves as nothing but a mere means 
of exhibiting the beautiful, that is, of communicating 
a knowledge of the ideas which it embodies. I refer 
to waxwork. Here, we might say, is the dividing 
line which separates it from the province of fine art. 
When waxwork is properly executed, it produces a 
perfect illusion ; but for that very reason we approach 
a wax figure as we approach a real man, who, as such, 
is for the moment an object presented to our will. 
That is to say, he is an object of interest ; he 
arouses the will, and consequently stills the intellect. 
We come up to a wax figure with the same reserve 
and caution as a real man would inspire in us : our 
will is excited ; it waits to see whether he is going to 
be friendly to us, or the reverse, fly from us, or attack 
us ; in a word, it expects some action of him. But as 
the figure, nevertheless, shows no sign of life, it pro- 
duces the impression which is .so very disagreeable, 



56 BEAUTY AND INTEREST 

namely, of a corpse. This is a case where the interest 
is of the most complete kind, and yet where there is 
no work of art at all. In other words, interest is not 
in itself a real end of art. 

The same truth is illustrated by the fact that even 
in poetry it is only the dramatic and descriptive kind 
to which interest attaches ; for if interest were, with 
beauty, the aim of art, poetry of the lyrical kind 
would, for that very reason, not take half so great 
a position as the other two. 

In the second place, if interest were a means in the 
production of beauty, every interesting work would 
also be beautiful. That, however, is by no means the 
case. A drama or a novel may often attract us by its 
interest, and yet be so utterly deficient in any kind of 
beauty that we are afterwards ashamed of having 
wasted our time on it. This applies to many a drama 
which gives no true picture of the real life of man ; 
which contains characters very superficially drawn, or 
so distorted as to be actual monstrosities, such as are 
not to be found in nature; but the course of events 
and the play of the action are so intricate, and we 
feel so much for the hero in the situation in which he 
is placed, that we are not content until we see the 
knot untangled and the hero rescued. The action is 
so cleverly governed and guided in its course that we 
remain in a state of constant curiosity as to what is 
going to happen, and we are utterly unable to form a 
guess; so that between eagerness and surprise our 
interest is kept active; and as we are pleasantly 
entertained, we do not notice the lapse of time. Most 
of Kotzebue's plays are of this character. For the 



IN WORKS OF ART. 57 

mob this is the right thing : it looks for amusement, 
something to pass the time, not for intellectual per- 
ception. Beauty is an affair of such perception; 
hence sensibility to beauty varies as much as the 
intellectual faculties themselves. For the inner truth 
of a representation, and its correspondence with the 
real nature of humanity, the mob has no sense at all. 
What is flat and superficial it can grasp, but the depths 
of human nature are opened to it in vain. 

It is also to be observed that dramatic representa- 
tions which depend for their value on their interest 
lose by repetition, because they are no longer able to 
arouse curiosity as to their course, since it is already 
known. To see them often, makes them stale and 
tedious. On the other hand, works of which the value 
lies in their beauty gain by repetition, as they are 
then more and more understood. 

Most novels are on the same footing as dramatic 
representations of this character. They are creatures 
of the same sort of imagination as we see in the story- 
teller of Venice and Naples, who lays a hat on the 
ground and waits until an audience is assembled. 
Then he spins a tale which so captivates his hearers 
that, when he gets to the catastrophe, he makes a 
round of the crowd, hat in hand, for contributions, 
without the least fear that his hearers will slip away. 
Similar story-tellers ply their trade in this country, 
though in a less direct fashion. They do it through 
the agency of publishers and circulating libraries. 
Thus they can avoid going about in rags, like, their 
colleagues elsewhere; they can offer the children of 
their imagination to the public under the title of 



58 BEAUTY AND INTEREST 

novels, short stories, romantic poems, fairy tales, and 
so on ; and the public, in a dressing-gown by the 
fireside, sits down more at its ease, but also with a 
greater amount of patience, to the enjoyment of the 
interest which they provide. 

How very little aesthetic value there generally is in 
productions of this sort is well known; and yet it 
cannot be denied that many of them are interesting ; 
or else how could they be so popular ? 

We see, then, in reply to our second question, that 
interest does not necessarily involve beauty ; and, con- 
versely, it is true that beauty does not necessarily in- 
volve interest. Significant characters may be repre- 
sented, that open up the depths of human nature, and 
it may all be expressed in actions and sufferings of an 
exceptional kind, so that the real nature of humanity 
and the world may stand forth in the picture in the 
clearest and most forcible lines ; and yet no high degree 
of interest may be excited in the course of events 
by the continued progress of the action, or by the 
complexity and unexpected solution of the plot. The 
immortal masterpieces of Shakespeare contain little 
that excites interest ; the action does not go forward 
in one straight line, but falters, as in Hamlet, all 
through the play ; or else it spreads out in breadth, 
as in The Merchant of Venice, whereas length is the 
proper dimension of interest; or the scenes hang 
loosely together, as in Henry IV. Thus it is that 
Shakespeare's dramas produce no appreciable effect on 
the mob. 

The dramatic requirements stated by Aristotle, and 
more particularly the unity of action, have in view 



IN WORKS OF ART. 59 

the interest of the piece rather than its artistic 
beauty. It may be said, generally, that these require- 
ments are drawn up in accordance with the principle 
of sufficient reason to which I have referred above. 
We know, however, that the idea, and, consequently, 
the beauty of a work of art, exist only for the per- 
ceptive intelligence which has freed itself from the 
domination of that principle. It is just here that we 
find the distinction between interest and beauty ; as 
it is obvious that interest is part and parcel of the 
mental attitude which is governed by the principle, 
whereas beauty is always beyond its range. The 
best and most striking refutation of the Aristotelian 
unities is Manzoni's. It may be found in the pre- 
face to his dramas. 

What is true of Shakespeare's dramatic works is 
true also of Goethe's. Even Egmont makes little effect 
on the public, because it contains scarcely any com- 
plication or development ; and if Egmont fails, what 
are we to say of Tasso or Iphigenia ? That the 
Greek tragedians did not look to interest as a means 
of working upon the public, is clear from the fact that 
the material of their masterpieces was almost always 
known to every one : they selected events which had 
often been treated dramatically before. This shows 
us how sensitive was the Greek public to the beauti- 
ful, as it did not require the interest of unexpected 
events and new stories to season its enjoyment. 

Neither does the quality of interest often attach to 
masterpieces of descriptive poetry. Father Homer 
lays the world and humanity before us in its true 
nature, but he takes no trouble to attract our sym- 



60 BEAUTY AND 

pathy by a complexity of circumstance, or to surprise 
us by unexpected entanglements. His pace is linger- 
ing; he stops at every scene; he puts one picture 
after another tranquilly before us, elaborating it with 
care. We experience no passionate emotion in read- 
ing him; our demeanour is one of pure perceptive 
intelligence ; he does not arouse our will, but sings it 
to rest ; and it costs us no effort to break off in our 
reading, for we are not in a condition of eager curiosity. 
This is all still more true of Dante, whose work is not, 
in the proper sense of the word, an epic, but a de- 
scriptive poem. The same thing may be said of the 
four immortal romances : Don Quixote, Tristram 
Shandy, La Nouvelle Heloise, and Wilhelm Meister. 
To arouse our interest is by no means the chief aim of 
these works ; in Tristram Shandy the hero, even at 
the end of the book, is only eight years of age. 

On the other hand, we must not venture to assert 
that the quality of interest is not to be found in 
masterpieces of literature. We have it in Schiller's 
dramas in an appreciable degree, and consequently 
they are popular; also in the (Edipus Ren of 
Sophocles. Amongst masterpieces of description, we 
find it in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso ; nay, an 
example of a high degree of interest, bound up with 
the beautiful, is afforded in an excellent novel by 
Walter Scott The Heart of Midlothian. This is 
the most interesting work of fiction that I know, 
where all the effects due to interest, as I have given 
them generally in the preceding remarks, may be 
most clearly observed. At the same time it is a very 
beautiful romance throughout; it shows the most 



IN WORKS OF ART. 61 

varied pictures of life, drawn with striking truth: 
and it exhibits highly different characters with great 
justice and fidelity. 

Interest, then, is certainly compatible with beauty. 
That was our third question. Nevertheless, a com- 
paratively small admixture of the element of interest 
may well be found to be most advantageous as far as 
beauty is concerned ; for beauty is and remains the 
end of art. Beauty is in twofold opposition with 
interest; firstly, because it lies in the perception of 
the idea, and such perception takes its object entirely 
out of the range of the forms enunciated by the 
principle of sufficient reason ; whereas interest has its 
sphere mainly in circumstance, and it is out of this 
principle that the complexity of circumstance arises. 
Secondly, interest works by exciting the will ; whereas 
beauty exists only for the pure perceptive intelligence, 
which has no will. However, with dramatic and 
descriptive literature an admixture of interest is 
necessary, just as a volatile and gaseous substance 
requires a material basis if it is to be preserved 
and transferred. The admixture is necessary, partly, 
indeed, because interest is itself created by the events 
which have to be devised in order to set the characters 
in motion ; partly because our minds would be weary 
of watching scene after scene if they had no concern for 
us, or of passing from one significant picture to another 
if we were not drawn on by some secret thread. It is 
this that we call interest : it is the sympathy which the 
event in itself forces us to feel, and which, by riveting 
our attention, makes the mind obedient to the poet, 
and able to follow him into all the parts of his story. 



62 BEAUTY AND INTEREST IN WORKS OF ART. 

If the interest of a work of art is sufficient to 
achieve this result, it does all that can be required of 
it ; for its only service is to connect the pictures by 
which the poet desires to communicate a knowledge 
of the idea, as if they were pearls, and interest were 
the thread that holds them together, and makes an 
ornament out of the whole. But interest is pre- 
judicial to beauty as soon as it oversteps this limit ; 
and this is the case if we are so led away by the 
interest of a work that whenever we come to any 
detailed description in a novel, or any lengthy reflec- 
tion on the part of a character in a drama, we grow 
impatient and want to put spurs to our author, so 
that we may follow the development of events with 
greater speed. Epic and dramatic writings, where 
beauty and interest are both present in a high degree, 
may be compared to the working of a watch, where 
interest is the spring which keeps all the wheels in 
motion. If it worked unhindered, the watch would 
run down in a few minutes. Beauty, holding us in 
the spell of description and reflection, is like the 
barrel which checks its movement. 

Or we may say that interest is the body of a poetic 
work, and beauty the soul. In the epic and the 
drama, interest, as a necessary quality of the action, 
is the matter ; and beauty, the form that requires the 
matter in order to be visible. 



PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 



65 



PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 

IN the moment when a great affliction overtakes us, 
we are hurt to find that the world about us is uncon- 
cerned and goes its own way. As Goethe says in 
Tasso, how easily it leaves us helpless and alone, and 
continues its course like the sun and the moon and 
the other gods : 

. . die WeU % wie sie so leicht, 
Uns hUlfios t einsam lasst, und ihren Wey, 
Wie Sonn' 1 und Mond und andre Goiter geht. 

Nay more ! it 4s something intolerable that even we 
ourselves have to go on with the mechanical round of 
our daily business, and that thousands of our own 
actions are and must be unaffected by the pain that 
throbs within us. And so, to restore the harmony 
between our outward doings and our inward feelings, 
we storm and shout, and tear our hair, and stamp 
with pain or rage. 

Our temperament is so despotic that we are not 
satisfied unless we draw everything into our own life, 
and force all the world to sympathise with us. The 
only way of achieving this would be to win the love 
of others, so that the afflictions which oppress our own 
hearts might oppress theirs as well. Since that is 
attended with some difficulty, we often choose the 
shorter way, and blab out our burden of woe to 



66 PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSEKVATIONS. 

people who do not care, and listen with curiosity, but 
without sympathy, and much oftener with satis- 
faction. 

Speech and the communication of thought, which, 
in their mutual relations, are always attended by a 
slight impulse on the part of the will, are almost a 
physical necessity* Sometimes, however, the lower 
animals entertain me much more than the average 
man. For, in the first place, what can such a man 
say ? It is only conceptions, that is, the driest of 
ideas, that can be communicated by means of words ; 
and what sort of conceptions has the average man to 
communicate, if he does not merely tell a story or 
give a report, neither of which makes conversation ? 
The greatest charm of conversation is the mimetic 
part of it, the character that is manifested, be it never 
so little. Take the best of men ; how little he can say 
of what goes on within him, since it is only concep- 
tions that are communicable ; and yet a conversation 
with a clever man is one of the greatest of pleasures. 

It is not only that ordinary men have little to say, 
but what intellect they have puts them in the way of 
concealing and distorting it ; and it is the necessity 
of practising this concealment that gives them such a 
pitiable character ; so that what they exhibit is not 
even the little that they have, but a mask and dis- 
guise. The lower animals, which have no reason, can 
conceal nothing ; they are altogether native, and 
therefore very entertaining, if we have only an eye 
for the kind of communications which they make. 
They speak not with words, but with shape and 



PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 67 

structure, and manner of life, and the things they 
set about ; they express themselves, to an intelligent 
observer, in a very pleasing and entertaining fashion. 
It is a varied life that is presented to him, and one that 
in its manifestation is very different from his own ; 
and yet essentially it is the same. He sees it in its 
simple form, when reflection is excluded ; for with 
the lower animals life is lived wholly in and for the 
present moment : it is the present that the animal 
grasps ; it has no care, or at least no conscious care, 
for the morrow, and no fear of death ; and so it is 
wholly taken up with life and living. 

The conversation among ordinary people, when it 
does not relate to any special matter of fact, but takes 
a more general character, mostly consists in hackneyed 
commonplaces; which they alternately repeat to each 
other faith the utmost complacency. 1 

Some men can despise any blessing as soon as they 
cease to possess it ; others only when they have ob- 
tained it. The latter are the more unhappy, and the 
nobler, of the two. 

When the aching heart grieves no more over any 
particular olyect, but is oppressed by life as a 
whole, it withdraws, as it were, into itself. There is 
here a retreat and gradual extinction of the will, 
whereby the body, which is the manifestation of the 
will, is slowly but surely undermined ; and the in- 

1 Translator^ Nate* This observation is in Schopenhauer's 
own English, 



68 PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 

dividual experiences a steady dissolution of his bonds, 
a quiet presentiment of death. Hence the heart 
which aches has a secret joy of its own ; and it is this, 
I fancy, which the English call " the joy of grief ". 

The pain that extends to life as a whole, and 
loosens our hold on it, is the only pain that is really 
tragic. That which attaches to particular objects is 
a will that is broken, but not resigned; it exhibits 
the struggle and inner contradiction of the will and 
of life itself ; and it is comic, be it never so violent. 
It is like the pain of the miser at the loss of his 
hoard. Even though pain of the tragic kind proceeds 
from a single definite object, it does not remain there ; 
it takes the separate affliction only as a symbol of life 
as a whole, and transfers it thither. 

Vexation is the attitude of the individual as intel- 
ligence towards the check imposed upon a strong 
manifestation of the individual as will. There are 
two ways of avoiding it: either by repressing the 
violence of the will in other words, by virtue ; or by 
keeping the intelligence from dwelling upon the 
check in other words, by Stoicism. 

To win the favour of a very beautiful woman by 
one's personality alone is perhaps a greater satisfac- 
tion to one's vanity than to anything else ; for it is an 
assurance that one's personality is an equivalent for 
the person that is treasured and desired and deified 
above all others. Hence it is that despised love is so 
great a pang, especially when it is associated with 
well-founded jealousy. 



PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 69 

With this joy and this pain, it is probable that 
vanity is more largely concerned than the senses, 
because it is only the things of the mind, and not 
mere sensuality, that produce such violent convul- 
sions. The lower animals are familiar with lust, but 
not with the passionate pleasures and pains of love. 

To be suddenly placed in a strange town or country 
where the manner of life, possibly even the language, 
is very different from our own, is, at the first moment, 
like stepping into cold water. We are brought into 
sudden contact with a new temperature, and we feel 
a powerful and superior influence from without which 
affects us uncomfortably. We find ourselves in a 
strange element, where we cannot move with ease; 
and, over and above that, we have the feeling that 
while everything strikes us as strange, we ourselves 
strike others in the same way. But as soon as we are 
a little composed and reconciled to our surroundings, 
as soon as we have appropriated some of its tempera- 
ture, we feel an extraordinary sense of satisfaction, as 
in bathing in cool water ; we assimilate ourselves to 
the new element, and cease to have any necessary pre- 
occupation with our person. We devote our attention 
undisturbed to our environment, to which we now feel 
ourselves superior by being able to view it in an 
objective and disinterested fashion, instead of being 
oppressed by it, as before. 

When we are on a journey, and all kinds of 
remarkable objects press themselves on our attention, 
the intellectual food which we receive is often so 



70 PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 

large in amount that we have no time for digestion ; 
and we regret that the impressions which succeed one 
another so quickly leave no permanent trace. But at 
bottom it is the same with travelling as with reading. 
How often do we complain that we cannot remember 
one thousandth part of what we read ! In both cases, 
however, we may console ourselves with the reflection 
that the things we see and read make an impression 
on the mind before they are forgotten, and so con- 
tribute to its formation and nurture; while that 
which we only remember does no more than stuff it 
and puff it out, filling up its hollows with matter that 
will always be strange to it, and leaving it in itself 
a blank. 

It is the very many and varied forms in which 
human life is presented to us on our travels that 
make them entertaining. But we never see more 
than its outside, such as is everywhere open to public 
view and accessible to strangers. On the other hand, 
human life on its inside, the heart and centre, where 
it lives and moves and shows its character, and in 
particular that part of the inner side which could be 
seen at home amongst our relatives, is not seen ; we 
have exchanged it for the outer side. This is why on 
our travels we see the world like a painted landscape, 
with a very wide horizon, but no foreground; and 
why, in time, we get tired of it. 

One man is more concerned with the impression 
which he makes upon the rest of mankind ; another, 
with the impression which the rest of mankind makes 



PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 71 

upon him. The disposition of the one is subjective ; 
of the other, objective; the one is, in the whole of 
his existence, more in the nature of an idea which is 
merely presented ; the other, more of the being who 
presents it. 

A woman (with certain exceptions which need not 
be mentioned) will not take the first step with a man ; 
for in spite of all the beauty she may have, she risks 
a refusal. A man may be ill in mind or body, or busy, 
or gloomy, and so not care for advances ; and a refusal 
would be a blow to her vanity. But as soon as he 
takes the first step, and helps her over this danger, 
he stands on a footing of equality with her, and will 
generally find her quite tractable. 

The praise with which many men speak of their 
wives is really given to their own judgment in select- 
ing them. This arises, perhaps, from a feeling of the 
truth of the saying, that a man shows what he is by 
the way in which he dies, and by the choice of his 
wife. 

If education or warning were of any avail, how 
could Seneca's pupil be a Nero ? 

The Pythagorean 1 principle that like is known only 
by like is in many respects a true one. It explains 
how it is that every man understands his fellow only 
in so far as he resembles him, or, at least, is of a simi- 
lar character. What one man is quite sure of per- 
1 See Porphyry, de Vita Pythagorae. 



72 PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 

ceiving in another is that which is common to all, 
namely, the vulgar, petty or mean elements of our 
nature ; here every man has a perfect understanding 
of his fellows ; but the advantage which one man has 
over another does not exist for the other, who, be the 
talents in question as extraordinary as they may, will 
never see anything beyond what he possesses himself, 
for the very good reason that this is all he wants to 
see. If there is anything on which he is in doubt, it 
will give him a vague sense of fear, mixed with 
pique ; because it passes his comprehension, and there- 
fore is uncongenial to him. 

This is why it is mind alone that understands mind; 
why works of genius are wholly understood and 
valued only by a man of genius, and why it must 
necessarily be a long time before they indirectly 
attract attention at the hands of the crowd, for whom 
they will never, in any true sense, exist. This, too, is 
why one man will look another in the face, with the 
impudent assurance that he will never see anything 
but a miserable resemblance of himself; and this is 
just what he will see, as he cannot grasp anything 
beyond it. Hence the bold way in which one man will 
contradict another. Finally, it is for the same reason 
that great superiority of mind isolates a man, and 
that those of high gifts keep themselves aloof from 
the vulgar (and that means every one) ; for if they 
mingle with the crowd, they can communicate only 
such parts of them as they share with the crowd, and 
so make themselves common. Nay, even though 
they possess some well-founded and authoritative re- 
putation amongst the crowd, they are not long in losing 



PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 73 

it, together with any personal weight it may give them, 
since all are blind to the qualities on which it is based, 
but have their eyes open to anything that is vulgar 
and common to themselves. They soon discover the 
truth of the Arabian proverb : Joke with a slave, and 
hell show you his heels. 

It also follows that a man of high gifts, in his in- 
tercourse with others, must always reflect that the 
best part of him is out of sight in the clouds ; so that 
if he desires to know accurately how much he can be 
to any one else, he has only to consider how much 
the man in question is to him. This, as a rule, is 
precious little ; and therefore he is as uncongenial to 
the other, as the other to him. 

Qoethe says somewhere that man is not without a 
vein of veneration. To satisfy this impulse to vene- 
rate, even in those who have no sense for what ifc 
really worthy, substitutes are provided in the shape 
of princes and princely families, nobles, titles, orders, 
and money-bags. 

Vague longing and boredom are close akin. 

When a man is dead, we envy him no more ; and 
we only half envy him when he is old. 

Misanthropy and love of solitude are convertible 
ideas. 

In chess, the object of the game, namely, to check- 
mate one's opponent, is of arbitrary adoption ; of the 

6 



74 PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS. 

possible means of attaining it, there is a great 
number ; and according as we make a prudent use of 
them, we arrive at our goal. We enter on the game 
of our own choice. 

Nor is it otherwise with human life, only that 
here the entrance is not of our choosing, but is 
forced on us; and the object, which is to live and 
exist, seems, indeed, at times as though it were of 
arbitrary adoption, and that we could, if necessary, 
relinquish it. Nevertheless it is, in the strict sense of 
the word, a natural object ; that is to say, we cannot 
relinquish it without giving up existence itself. If we 
regard our existence as the work of some arbitrary 
power outside us, we must, indeed, admire the cun- 
ning by which that creative mind has succeeded 
in making us place so much value on an object which 
is only momentary and must of necessity be laid aside 
very soon, and which we see, moreover, on reflection, to 
be altogether vanity in making, I say, this object so 
dear to us that we eagerly exert all our strength in 
working at it ; although we know that as soon as the 
game is over, the object will exist for us no longer, and 
that, on the whole, we cannot say what it is that makes 
it so attractive. Nay, it seems to be an object as 
arbitrarily adopted as that of checkmating our 
opponent's king ; and, nevertheless, we are always in- 
tent on the means of attaining it, and think and brood 
over nothing else. It is clear that the reason of it is 
that our intellect is only capable of looking outside, 
and has no power at all of looking within ; and, since 
this is so, we have come to the conclusion that we must 
make the best of it. 



ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 



ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHOEISMS. 

THE simple Philistine believes that life is something 
infinite and unconditioned, and tries to look upon it 
and live it as though it left nothing to be desired. 
By method and principle the learned Philistine does 
the same : he believes that his methods and his prin- 
ciples are unconditionally perfect and objectively 
valid ; so that as soon as he has found them, he has 
nothing to do but apply them to circumstances, and 
then approve or condemn. But happiness and truth 
are not to be seized in this fashion. It is phantoms 
of them alone that are sent to us here, to stir us to 
action; the average man pursues the shadow of 
happiness with unwearied labour ; and the thinker, 
the shadow of truth ; and both, though phantoms are 
all they have, possess in them as much as they can 
grasp. Life is a language in which certain truths are 
conveyed to us ; could we learn them in some other 
way, we should not live. Thus it is that wise sayings 
and prudential maxims will never make up for the 
lack of experience, or be a substitute for life itself. 
Still they are not to be despised ; for they, too, are a 
part of life ; nay, they should be highly esteemed and 
regarded as the loose pages which others have copied 
from the book of truth as it is imparted by the spirit 
of the world. But they are pages which must needs 



78 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE : APHORISMS. 

be imperfect, and can never replace the real living 
voice. Still less can this be so when we reflect that 
life, or the book of truth, speaks differently to us all ; 
like the apostles who preached at Pentecost, and 
instructed the multitude, appearing to each man to 
speak in his own tongue. 

Recognise the truth in yourself, recognise yourself 
in the truth ; and in the same moment you will find, 
to your astonishment, that the home which you have 
long been looking for in vain, which has filled your 
most ardent dreams, is there in its entirety, with 
every detail of it true, in the very place where you 
stand. It is there that your heaven touches your earth. 

What makes us almost inevitably ridiculous is our 
serious way of treating the passing moment, as though 
it necessarily had all the importance which it seems 
to have. It is only a few great minds that are above 
this weakness, and, instead of being laughed at, have 
come to laugh themselves. 

The bright and good moments of our life ought to 
teach us how to act aright when we are melancholy 
and dull and stupid, by preserving the memory of 
their results; and the melancholy, dull, and stupid 
moments should teach us to be modest when we are 
bright. For we generally value ourselves according 
to our best and brightest moments ; and those in which 
we are weak and dull and miserable, we regard as no 
proper part of us. To remember them will teach us to 
be modest, humble, and tolerant. 



ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APEtOfclSMS. 79 

Mark my words once for all, my dear friend, and 
be clever. Men are entirely self-centred, and in- 
capable of looking at things objectively. If you had a 
dog and wanted to make him fond of you, and 
fancied that of your hundred rare and excellent 
characteristics the mongrel would be sure to perceive 
one, and that that would be sufficient to make him 
devoted to you body and soul if, I say, you fancied 
that, you would be a fool. Pat him, give him some- 
thing to eat ; and for the rest, be what you please : 
he will not in the least care, but will be your faithful 
and devoted dog. Now, believe me, it is just the same 
with men exactly the same. As Goethe says, man 
or dog, it is a miserable wretch : 

Denn ein erbtirmlicher Schuft, so wie der Mensch, ist der If and. 

If you ask why these contemptible fellows are so 
lucky, it is just because, in themselves and for them- 
selves and to themselves, they are nothing at all. 
The value which they possess is merely comparative ; 
they exist only for others ; they are never more than 
means; they are never an end and object in them- 
selves; they are mere bait, set to catch others. 1 I 
do not admit that this rule is susceptible of any 
exceptions, that is to say, complete exceptions. There 
are, it is true, men though they are sufficiently rare 
who enjoy some subjective moments; nay, therq are 
perhaps some who for every hundred subjective 
moments enjoy a few that are objective ; but a higher 
state of perfection scarcely ever occurs. But do not 

1 All this is very euphemistically expressed in the Sophoclean 

verse : 

W j) riitrovcr* Ael. 



80 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE : APfiO&lSMS. 

take yourself for an exception : examine your love, 
your friendship, and consider if your objective judg- 
ments are not mostly subjective judgments in dis- 
guise; consider if you duly recognise the good 
qualities of a man who is not fond of you. Then be 
tolerant : confound it ! it's your duty. As you are all 
so self-centred, recognise your own weakness. You 
know that you cannot like a man who does not show 
himself friendly to you ; you know that he cannot do 
so for any length of time unless he likes you, and 
that he cannot like you unless you show that you are 
friendly to him ; then do it : your false friendliness 
will gradually become a true one. Your own weak- 
ness and subjectivity must have some illusion. 

This is really an d priori justification of politeness ; 
but I could give a still deeper reason for it. 

Consider that chance, which, with error, its brother, 
and folly, its aunt, and malice, its grandmother, rules 
in this world ; which, every year and every day, by 
blows great and small, embitters the life of every 
son of earth, and yours too ; consider, I say, that it is 
to this wicked power that you owe your prosperity 
and independence ; for it gave you what it refused to 
many thousands, just to be able to give it to indi- 
viduals like you. Remembering all this, you will not 
behave as though you had a right to the possession of 
its gifts; but you will perceive what a capricious 
mistress it is that gives you her favours ; and there- 
fore when she takes it into her head to deprive you of 
some or all of them, you will not make a great fuss 
about her injustice ; but you will recognise that what 



Otf tHE WISDOM OF LltfE : APHORISMS. 81 

chance gave, chance has taken away ; if needs be, you 
will observe that this power is not quite so favour- 
able to you as she seemed to be hitherto. Why, she 
might have disposed not only of what she gave you, 
but also of your honest and hard-earned gains. 

But if chance still remains so favourable to you as 
to give you more than almost all others whose path 
in life you may care to examine, oh ! be happy ; do not 
struggle for the possession of her presents; employ 
them properly ; look upon them as property held from 
a capricioufl lord ; use them wisely and well. 

The Aristotelian principle of keeping the mean in 
all things is ill suited to be the moral law for which 
it was intended ; but it may easily be the best general 
rule of worldly wisdom, the best precept for a happy 
life. For life is so full of uncertainty ; there are on 
all sides so many discomforts, burdens, sufferings, 
dangers, that a safe and happy voyage can be accom- 
plished only by steering carefully through the rocks. 
As a rule, the fear of the ills we know drives us into 
the contrary ills ; the pain of solitude, for example, 
drives us into society, and the first society that 
comes ; the discomforts of society drive us into soli- 
tude; we exchange a forbidding demeanour for in- 
cautious confidence, and so on. It is ever the mark of 
folly to avoid one vice by rushing into its contrary : 

Stulti dum mtant vitia in contraria currunt. 

Or else we think that we shall find satisfaction in 
something, and spend all our efforts on it ; and thereby 
we omit to provide for the satisfaction of a hundred 



82 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 

other wishes which make themselves felt at their own 
time. One loss and omission follows another, and 
there is no end to the misery. 

MrjSev ayav and nil admirari are, therefore, ex- 
cellent rules of worldly wisdom. 

We often find that people of great experience are 
the most frank and cordial in their intercourse with 
complete strangers, in whom they have no interest 
whatever. The reason of this is that men of experi- 
ence know that it is almost impossible for people who 
stand in any sort of mutual relation to be sincere and 
open with one another ; but that there is always more 
or less of a strain between them, due to the fact that 
they are looking after their own interests, whether 
immediate or remote. They regret the fact, but they 
know that it is so ; hence they leave their own people, 
rush into the arms of a complete stranger, and in 
happy confidence open their hearts to him. Thus it 
is that monks and the like, who have given up the 
world and are strangers to it, are such good people to 
turn to for advice. 

It is only by practising mutual restraint and self 
denial that we can act and talk with other people ; 
and, therefore, if we have to converse at all, it can 
only be with a feeling of resignation. For if we seek 
society, it is because we want fresh impressions : these 
come from without, and are therefore foreign to our- 
selves. If a man fails to perceive this, and, when he 
seeks the society of others, is unwilling to practise, 
resignation, and absolutely refuses to deny himself 



ON THE WISDOM OP LIFE: APHORISMS. 83 

nay, demands that others, who are altogether different 
from himself, shall nevertheless be just what he wants 
them to be for the moment, according to the degree 
of education which he has reached, or according 
to his intellectual powers or his mood the man, I 
say, who does this, is in contradiction with himself. 
For while he wants some one who shall be different 
from himself, and wants him just because he is differ- 
ent, for the sake of society and fresh influence, he 
nevertheless demands that this other individual shall 
precisely resemble the imaginary creature who ac- 
cords with his mood, and have no thoughts but those 
which he has himself. 

Women are very liable to subjectivity of this kind ; 
but men are not free from it either. 

I observed once to Goethe, in complaining of the 
illusion and vanity of life, that when a friend is with 
us we do not think the same of him as when he is 
away. He replied : " Yes ! because the absent friend 
is yourself, and he exists only in your head ; whereas 
the friend who is present has an individuality of his 
own, and moves according to laws of his own, which 
cannot always be in accordance with those which you 
form for yourself ". 

A good supply of resignation is of the first import- 
ance in providing for the journey of life. It is a 
supply which we shall have to extract from disap- 
pointed hopes; and the sooner we do it, the better 
for the rest of the journey. 

How should a man be content so long as he fails to 



84 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 

obtain complete unity in his inmost being ? For as 
long as two voices alternately speak in him, what is 
right for one must be wrong for the other. Thus he 
is always complaining. But has any man ever been 
completely at one with himself ? Nay, is not the very 
thought a contradiction ? 

That a man shall attain this inner unity is the im- 
possible and inconsistent pretension put forward by 
almost all philosophers. 1 For as a man it is natural to 
him to be at war with himself as long as he lives. 
While he can be only one thing thoroughly, he 
has the disposition to be everything else, and the 
inalienable possibility of being it. If he has made 
his "choice of one thing, all the other possibilities are 
always open to him, and are constantly claiming to 
be realised ; and he has therefore to be continuously 
keeping them back, and to be overpowering and kill- 
ing them as long as he wants to be that one thing. 
For example, if he wants to think only, and not to 
act and do business, the disposition to the latter is 
not thereby destroyed all at once ; but as long as the 
thinker lives, he has every hour to keep on killing the 
acting and pushing man that is within him ; always 
battling with himself, as though he were a monster 
whose head is no sooner struck off than it grows again. 
In the same way, if he is resolved to be a saint, he must 
kill himself so far as he is a being that enjoys and is 
given over to pleasure; for such he remains as long 
as he lives. It is not once for all that he must 
kill himself : he must keep on doing it all his life. 

1 Aitdacter licet profitearis, summum bonum esse animi concord' 
-~ Seneca, 



ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 85 

If he has resolved upon pleasure, whatever be the 
way in which it is to be obtained, his lifelong struggle 
is with a being that desires to be pure and free and 
holy ; for the disposition remains, and he has to kill 
it every hour. And so on in everything, with infinite 
modifications ; it is now one side of him, and now 
the other, that conquers ; he himself is the battlefield. 
If one side of him is continually conquering, the 
other is continually struggling ; for its life is bound 
up with his own, and, as a man, he is the possibility 
of many contradictions. 

How is inner unity even possible under such cir- 
cumstances ? It exists neither in the saint nor in the 
sinner ; or rather, the truth is that no man is wholly 
one or the other. For it is men they have to be ; that 
is, luckless beings, fighters and gladiators in the arena 
of life. 

To be sure, the best thing he can do is to recognise 
which part of him smarts the most under defeat, and 
let it always gain the victory. This he will always be 
able to do by the use of his reason, which is an ever- 
present fund of ideas. Let him resolve of his own 
free will to undergo the pain which the defeat of the 
other part involves. This is character. For the 
battle of life cannot be waged free from all pain ; it 
cannot come to an end without bloodshed ; and in any 
case a man must suffer pain, for he is the conquered 
as well as the conqueror. Haec est vivendi conditio. 

The clever man, when he converses, will think less 
of what he is saying than of the person with whom he 
is speaking ; for then he is sure to say nothing which 



86 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 

he will afterwards regret ; he is sure not to lay him- 
self open, nor to commit an indiscretion. But his 
conversation will never be particularly interesting. 

An intellectual man readily does the opposite, and 
with him the person with whom he converses is often 
no more than the mere occasion of a monologue ; and 
it often happens that the other then makes up for his 
subordinate rdle by lying in wait for the man of 
intellect, and drawing his secrets out of him. 

Nothing betrays less knowledge of humanity than 
to suppose that, if a man has a great many friends, it 
is a proof of merit and intrinsic value : as though men 
gave their friendship according to value and merit ! 
as though they were not, rather, just like dogs, which 
love the person that pats them and gives them bits of 
meat, and never trouble themselves about anything 
else! The man who understands how to pat his 
fellows best, though they be the nastiest brutes, 
that's the man who has many friends. 

It is the converse that is true. Men of great 
intellectual worth, or, still more, men of genius, 
can have only very few friends; for their clear eye 
soon discovers all defects, and their sense of recti- 
tude is always being outraged afresh by the extent 
and the horror of them. It is only extreme necessity 
that can compel such men not to betray their feelings, 
or even to stroke the defects as if they were beautiful 
additions. Personal love (for we are not speaking of 
the reverence which is gained by authority) cannot 
be won by a man of genius, unless the gods have 
endowed him with an indestructible cheerfulness of 



ON THE WISDOM OP LIFE: APHORISMS. 87 

temper, a glance that makes the world look beautiful, 
or unless he has succeeded by degrees in taking men 
exactly $s they are ; that is to say, in making a fool 
of the fools, as is right and proper. On the heights 
we must expect to be solitary. 

Our constant discontent is for the most part rooted 
in the impulse of self-preservation. This passes into a 
kind of selfishness, and makes a duty out of the 
maxim that we should always fix our minds upon what 
we lack, so that we may endeavour to procure it. 
Thus it is that we are always intent on finding out 
what we want, and on thinking of it ; but that maxim 
allows us to overlook undisturbed the things which 
we already possess; and so, as soon as we have 
obtained anything, we give it much less attention 
than before. We seldom think of what we have, 
but always of what we lack. 

This maxim of egoism, which has, indeed, its advan- 
tages in procuring the means to the end in view, 
itself concurrently destroys the ultimate end, namely, 
contentment ; like the bear in the fable that throws a 
stone at the hermit to kill the fly on his nose. We 
ought to wait until need and privation announce 
themselves, instead of looking for them. Minds that 
are naturally content do this, while hypochondrists 
do the reverse. 

A man's nature is in harmony with itself when he 
desires to be nothing but what he is ; that is to say, 
when he has attained by experience a knowledge of 
his strength and of his weakness, and makes use of 



88 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHOKISMS. 

the one and conceals the other, instead of playing 
with false coin, and trying to show a strength which 
he does not possess. It is a harmony which produces 
an agreeable and rational character ; and for the simple 
reason that everything which makes the man and 
gives him his 'mental and physical qualities is nothing 
but the manifestation of his will ; is, in fact, what he 
wills. Therefore it is the greatest of all inconsistencies 
to wish to be other than we are. 

People of a strange and curious temperament can be 
happy only under strange circumstances, such as suit 
their nature, in the same way as ordinary circum- 
stances suit the ordinary man ; and such circumstances 
can arise only if, in some extraordinary way, they 
happen to meet with strange people of a character 
different indeed, but still exactly suited to their own. 
That is why men of rare or strange qualities are 
seldom happy. 

All pleasure is derived from the use and conscious- 
ness of power ; and the greatest of pains that a man 
can feel is to perceive that his powers fail just when 
he wants to use them. Therefore it will be advan- 
tageous for every man to discover what powers he 
possesses, and what powers he lacks. Let him, then, 
develop the powers in which he is pre-eminent, and 
make a strong use of them ; let him pursue the path 
where they will avail him ; and even though he has 
to conquer his inclinations, let him avoid, the path 
where such powers are requisite as he possesses only 
in a low degree. In this way he will often have a 



ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 89 

pleasant consciousness of strength, and seldom a pain- 
ful consciousness of weakness ; and it will go well with 
him. But if he lets himself be drawn into efforts 
demanding a kind of strength quite different from 
that in which he is pre-eminent, he will experience 
humiliation; and this is perhaps the most painful 
feeling with which a man can be afflicted. 

Yet there are two sides to everything. The man 
who has insufficient self-confidence in a sphere where 
he has little power, and is never ready to make a 
venture, will on the one hand not even learn how to 
use the little power that he has ; and on the other, in 
a sphere in which he would at least be able to achieve 
something, there will be a complete absence of effort, 
and consequently of pleasure. This is always hard to 
bear ; for a man can never draw a complete blank in 
any department of. human welfare without feeling 
some pain. 

As a child, one has no conception of the inexorable 
character of the laws of nature, and of the stubborn 
way in which everything persists in remaining what 
it is. The child believes that even lifeless things are 
disposed to yield to it ; perhaps because it feels itself 
one with nature, or, from mere unacquaintance with 
the world, believes that nature is disposed to be 
friendly. Thus it was that when I was a child, and 
had thrown my shoe into a large vessel full of milk, 
I was discovered entreating the shoe to jump out. 
Nor is a child on its guard against animals until it 
learns that they are ill-natured and spiteful. But 
not before we have gained mature experience do we 



90 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 

recognise that human character is unalterable; that 
no entreaty, or representation, or example, or benefit, 
will bring a man to give up his ways; but that, on the 
contrary, every man is compelled to follow his own 
mode of acting and thinking, with the necessity of a 
law of nature; and that, however we take him, he 
always remains the same. It is only after we have 
obtained a clear and profound knowledge of this fact 
that we give up trying to persuade people, or to alter 
them and bring them round to our way of thinking. 
We try to accommodate ourselves to theirs instead, so 
far as they are indispensable to us, and to keep away 
from them so far as we cannot possibly agree. 

Ultimately we come to perceive that even in matters 
of mere intellect although its laws are the same for 
all, and the subject as opposed to the object of 
thought does not really enter into individuality 
there is, nevertheless, no certainty that the whole truth 
of any matter can be communicated to any one, or 
that any one can be persuaded or compelled to assent 
to it; because, as Bacon says, intellects humanus 
luminis sicci non est: the light of the human 
intellect is coloured by interest and passion. 

It is just because all happiness is of a negative 
character that, when we succeed in being perfectly 
at our ease, we are not properly conscious of it, 
Everything seems to pass us softly and gently, and 
hardly to touch us until the moment is over ; and then 
it is the positive feeling of something lacking, that 
tells us of the happiness which has vanished; it is 
then that we observe that we have failed to hold it 



ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 91 

fast, and we suffer the pangs of self-reproach as well 
as of privation. 

Every happiness that a man enjoys, and almost 
every friendship that he cherishes, rest upon illusion ; 
for, as a rule, with increase of knowledge they are 
bound to vanish. Nevertheless, here as elsewhere, 
a man should courageously pursue truth, and never 
weary of striving to settle accounts with himself and 
the world. No matter what happens to the right or 
to the left of him, be it a chimaera or fancy that makes 
him happy, let him take heart and go on, with no fear 
of the desert which widens to his view. Of one thing 
only must he be quite certain : that under no circum- 
stances will he discover any lack of worth in himself 
when the veil is raised ; the sight of it would be the 
Gorgon that would* kill him. Therefore, if he wants 
to remain undeceived, let him in his inmost being feel 
his own worth. For to feel the lack of it is not 
merely the greatest, but also the only true affliction ; 
all other sufferings of the mind may not only be 
healed, but may be immediately relieved, by the secure 
consciousness of worth. The man who is assured of 
it can sit down quietly under sufferings that would 
otherwise bring him to despair ; and though he has no 
pleasures, no joys and no friends, he can rest in and 
on himself ; so powerful is the comfort to be derived 
from a vivid consciousness of this advantage ; a com- 
fort to be preferred to every other earthly blessing. 
Contrarily, nothing in the world can relieve a man 
who knows his own worthlessness ; all that he can do 
is to conceal it by deceiving people or deafening them 



92 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 

with his noise ; but neither expedient will serve him 
very long. 

We must always try to preserve large views. If 
we are arrested by details we shall get confused, and 
see things awry. The success or the failure of the 
moment, and the impression that they make, should 
count for nothing. 1 

How difficult it is to learn to understand oneself, 
and clearly to recognise what it is that one wants 
before anything else; what it is, therefore, that is 
most immediately necessary to our happiness ; then 
what comes next ; and what takes the third and the 
fourth place, and so on. 

Yet, without this knowledge, our life is planless, 
like a captain without a compass. 

The sublime melancholy which leads us to cherish a 
lively conviction of the worthlessness of everything, 
of all pleasures and of all mankind, and therefore to 
long for nothing, but to feel that life is merely a 
burden which must be borne to an end that cannot 
be very distant, is a much happier state of mind than 
any condition of desire, which, be it never so cheerful, 
would have us place a value on the illusions of the 
world, and strive to attain them. 

This is a fact which we learn from experience ; and 
it is clear, a priori, that one of these is a condition of 
illusion, and the other of knowledge. 

1 Translator's Note. Schopenhauer, for some reason that is not 
apparent, wrote this remark in French. 



ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS. 93 

Whether it is better to marry or not to marry is a 
question which in very many cases amounts to this : 
Are the cares of love more endurable than the 
anxieties of a livelihood ? 

Marriage is a trap which nature sets for us. 1 

Poets and philosophers who are married men incur 
by that very fact the suspicion that they are looking 
to their own welfare, and not to the interests of science 
and art. 

Habit is everything. Hence to be calm and un- 
ruffled is merely to anticipate a habit; and it is a 
great advantage not to need to form it. 

" Personality is the element of the greatest happi- 
ness." Since pain and boredom are the two chief 
enemies of human happiness, nature has provided our 
personality with a protection against both. We can 
ward off pain, which is more often of the mind than 
of the body, by cheerfulness ; and boredom by intelli- 
gence. But neither of these is akin to the other; 
nay, in any high degree they are perhaps incom- 
patible. As Aristotle remarks, genius is allied to 
melancholy ; and people of very cheerful disposition 
are only intelligent on the surface. The better, there- 
fore, anyone is by nature armed against one of these 
evils, the worse, as a rule, is he armed against the 
other. 

1 Translator's Note. Also in French. 



94 ON THE WISDOM OF LIFE : APHORISMS. 

There is no human life that is free from pain and 
boredom ; and it is a special favour on the part of 
fate if a man is chiefly exposed to the evil against 
which nature has armed him the better ; if fate, that is, 
sends a great deal of pain where there is a very 
cheerful temper in which to bear it, and much leisure 
where there is much intelligence, but not vice veraA. 
For if a man is intelligent, he feels pain doubly or 
trebly ; and a cheerful but unintellectual temper finds 
solitude and unoccupied leisure altogether unen- 
durable. 

In the sphere of thought, absurdity and perversity 
remain the masters of this world, and their dominion 
is suspended only for brief periods. Nor is it other- 
wise in art; for there genuine work, seldom found 
and still more seldom appreciated, is again and again 
driven out by dulness, insipidity, and affectation. 

It is just the same in the sphere of action. Most 
men, says Bias, are bad. Virtue is a stranger in this 
world ; and boundless egoism, cunning and malice, are 
always the order of the day. It is wrong to deceive 
the young on this point, for it will only make them 
feel later on that their teachers were the first to 
deceive them. If the object is to render the pupil a 
better man by telling him that others are excellent, it 
fails ; and it would be more to the purpose to say 
Most men are bad, it is for you to be better. In this 
way he would, at least, be sent out into the world 
armed with a shrewd foresight, instead of having to 
be convinced by bitter experience that his teachers 
were wrong. 



ON THE WISDOM OJ 1 LIFE: APHORISMS. 95 

All ignorance is dangerous, and most errors must 
be dearly paid. And good luck must he have that 
carries unchastised an error in his head unto his 
death. 1 

Every piece of success has a doubly beneficial effect 
upon us when, apart from the special and material 
advantage which it brings, it is accompanied by the 
enlivening assurance that the world, fate, or the 
daemon within, does not mean so badly with us, nor 
is so opposed to our prosperity as we had fancied; 
when, in fine, it restores our courage to live. 

Similarly, every misfortune or defeat has, in the 
contrary sense, an effect that is doubly depressing. 

If we were not all of us exaggeratedly interested 
in ourselves, life would be so uninteresting that no 
one could endure it. 

Everywhere in the world, and under all circum- 
stances, it is only by force that anything can be done ; 
but power is mostly in bad hands, because baseness is 
everywhere in a fearful majority. 

Why should it be folly to be always intent on 
getting the greatest possible enjoyment out of the 
moment, which is our only sure possession ? Our 
whole life is no more than a magnified present, and in 
itself as fleeting. 

As a consequence of his individuality and the posi- 
1 Translator's Note. This, again, is Schopenhauer's own English 



96 Otf THE WISDOM OF LIFE : APHORISMS. 

tion in which he is placed, everyone without exception 
lives in a certain state of limitation, both as regards 
his ideas and the opinions which he forms, Another 
man is also limited, though not in the same way; 
but should he succeed in comprehending the other's 
limitation he can confuse and abash him, and put him 
to shame, by making him feel what his limitation is, 
even though the other be far and away his superior. 
Shrewd people often employ this circumstance to 
obtain a false and momentary advantage. 

The only genuine superiority is that of the mind 
and character ; all other kinds are fictitious, affected, 
false ; and it is good to make them feel that it is so 
when they try to show off before the superiority that 
is true. 1 

All the world's a stage, 
And all the men and women merely players. 

Exactly ! Independently of what a man really is in 
himself, he has a part to play, which fate has imposed 
upon him from without, by determining his rank, 
education, and circumstances. The most immediate 
application of this truth appears to me to be that in 
life, as on the stage, we must distinguish between the 
actor and his part ; distinguish, that is, the man in 
himself from his position and reputation from the 
part which rank and circumstances have imposed upon 
him. How often it is that the worst actor plays the 
king, and the best the beggar ! This may happen in 

1 Translator's Note. In the original this also is in French. 



Oft THE WISDOM OF LIFE: APHORISMS, 97 

life, too ; and a" man must be very crude to confuse 
the actor with his part. 

Our life is so poor that none of the treasures of the 
world can make it rich ; for the sources of enjoyment 
are soon found to be all very scanty, and it is in vain 
that we look for one that will always flow. Therefore, 
as regards our own welfare, there are only two ways 
in which we can use wealth. We can either spend it 
in ostentatious pomp, and feed on the cheap respect 
which our imaginary glory will bring us from the 
infatuated crowd ; or, by avoiding all expenditure 
that will do us no good, we can let our wealth 
grow, so that we may have a bulwark against mis- 
fortune and want that shall be stronger and better 
every day ; in view of the fact that life, though it has 
few delights, is rich in evils. 

It is just because our real and inmost being is will 
that it is only by its exercise that we can attain a vivid 
consciousness of existence, although this is almost 
always attended by pain. Hence it is that existence 
is essentially painful, and that many persons for whose 
wants full provision is made arrange their day in 
accordance with extremely regular, monotonous, and 
definite habits. By this means they avoid all the 
pain which the movement of the will produces ; but, 
on the other hand, their whole existence becomes a 
series of scenes and pictures that mean nothing. They 
are hardly aware that they exist. Nevertheless, it is 
the best way of settling accounts with life, so long as 
there is sufficient change to prevent an excessive feel- 



98 otf TSU WISDOM OF LIFE : APHORISMS. 

ing of boredom. It is much better still if the Muses 
give a man some worthy occupation, so that the 
pictures which fill his consciousness have some mean- 
ing, a-nd yet not a meaning that can be brought into 
ally * olation with his will. 

A man is wise only on condition of living in a 
world full of fools. 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 



101 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 

WHEN I think, it is the spirit of the world which is 
striving to express its thought ; it is nature which is 
trying to know and fathom itself. It is not the 
thoughts of some other mind, which I am endeavour- 
ing to trace; but it is I who transform that which 
exists into something which is known and thought, 
and would otherwise neither come into being nor 
continue in it. 

In the realm of physics it was held for thousands 
of years to be a fact beyond question that water was 
a simple and consequently an original element. In 
the same way in the realm of metaphysics it was 
held for a still longer period that the ego was a simple 
and consequently an indestructible entity. I have 
shown, however, that it is composed of two hetero- 
geneous parts, namely, the Will, which is metaphysical 
in its character, a thing in itself, and the knowing 
subject, which is physical and a mere phenomenon. 

Let me illustrate what I mean. Take any large, 
massive, heavy building: this hard, ponderous body 
that fills so much space exists, I tell you, only in 
the soft pulp of the brain. There alone, in the 
human brain, has it any being. Unless you under- 
stand this, you can go no further. 

Truly it is the world itself that is a miracle ; the 



102 GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 

world of material bodies. I looked at two of them. 
Both were heavy, symmetrical, and beautiful. One 
was a jasper vase with golden rim and golden handles ; 
the other was an organism, an animal, a man. When 
I had sufficiently admired their exterior, I asked my 
attendant genius to allow me to examine the inside 
of them ; and I did so. In the vase I found nothing 
but the force of gravity and a certain obscure desire, 
which took the form of chemical affinity. But when 
I entered into the other how shall I express my 
astonishment at what I saw ? It is more incredible 
than all the fairy tales and fables that were ever 
conceived. Nevertheless, I shall try to describe it, 
even at the risk of finding no credence for my tale. 

In this second thing, or rather in the upper end of 
it, called the head, which on its exterior side looks like 
anything else a body in space, heavy, and so on 
I found no less an object than the whole world itself, 
together with the whole of the space in which all of it 
exists, and the whole of the time in which all of it 
moves, and finally everything that fills both time and 
space in all its variegated and infinite character; nay, 
strangest sight of all, I found myself walking about 
in it ! It was no picture that I saw ; it was no 
peep-show, but reality itself. This it is that is really 
and truly to be found in a thing which is no bigger 
than a cabbage, and which, on occasion, an executioner 
might strike off at a blow, and suddenly smother that 
world in darkness and night. The world, I say, 
would vanish, did not heads grow like mushrooms, 
and were there not always plenty of them ready to 
snatch it up as it is sinking down into nothing, ana 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 10e3 

keep it going like a ball. This world is an idea 
which they all have in common, and they express the 
community of their thought by the word "objectivity". 

In the face of this vision I felt as if I were Ardschuna 
when Krishna appeared to him in his true majesty, 
with his hundred thousand arms and eyes and mouths. 

When I see a wide landscape, and realise that it 
arises by the operation of the functions of my brain, 
that is to say, of time, space, and causality, on certain 
spots which have gathered on my retina, I feel that I 
carry it within me. I have an extraordinarily clear 
consciousness of the identity of my own being with 
that of the external world. 

Nothing provides so vivid an illustration of this 
identity as a dream. For in a dream other people 
appear to be totally distinct from us, and to possess 
the most perfect objectivity, and a nature which is 
quite different from ours, and which often puzzles, 
surprises, astonishes, or terrifies us ; and yet it is all 
our own self. It is even so with the will, which sustains 
the whole of the external world and gives it life ; it is 
the same will that is in ourselves, and it is there alone 
that we are immediately conscious of it. But it 
is the intellect, in ourselves and in others, which 
makes all these miracles possible ; for it is the intellect 
which everywhere divides actual being into subject 
and object ; it is a hall of phantasmagorical mystery, 
inexpressibly marvellous, incomparably magical. 

The difference in degree of mental power which sets 
so wide a gulf between the genius and the ordinary 
mortal rests, it is true, upon nothing else than a more 
or less perfect development of the cerebral system. 



104 GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 

But it is this very difference which is so important, 
because the whole of the real world in which we live 
and move possesses an existence only in relation to 
this cerebral system. Accordingly, the difference 
between a genius and an ordinary man is a total 
diversity of world and existence. The difference 
between man and the lower animals may be 
similarly explained. 

When Mom us was said to ask for a window in the 
breast, it was an allegorical joke, and we cannot even 
imagine such a contrivance to be a possibility ; but it 
would be quite possible to imagine that the skull and 
its integuments were transparent, and then, good 
heavens ! what differences should we see in the size, 
the form, the quality, the movement of the brain ! 
what degrees of value ! A great mind would inspire 
as much respect at first sight as three stars on a man's 
breast, and what a miserable figure would be cut by 
many a one who wore them ! 

Men of genius and intellect, and all those whose 
mental and theoretical qualities are far more developed 
than their moral and practical qualities men, in a 
word, who have more mind than character are often 
not only awkward and ridiculous in matters of daily 
life, as has been observed by Plato in the seventh 
book of the Republic, and portrayed by Goethe in his 
Tasso ; but they are often, from a moral point of 
view, weak and contemptible creatures as well ; nay, 
they might almost be called bad men. Of this Rous- 
seau has given us genuine examples. Nevertheless, 
that better consciousness which is the source of all 
virtue is often stronger in them than in many of 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 105 

those whose actions are nobler than their thoughts; 
nay, it may be said that those who think nobly have 
a better acquaintance with virtue, while the others 
make a better practice of it. Full of zeal for the 
good and for the beautiful, they would fain fly up to 
heaven in a straight line ; but the grosser elements of 
this earth oppose their flight, and they sink back 
again. They are like born artists, who have no 
knowledge of technique, or find that the marble is too 
hard for their fingers. Many a man who has much 
less enthusiasm for the good, and a far shallower 
acquaintance with its depths, makes a better thing of 
it in practice ; he looks down upon the noble thinkers 
with contempt, and he has a right to do it ; neverthe- 
less, he does not understand them, and they despise 
him in their turn, and not unjustly. They are to blame ; 
for every living man -has, by the fact of his living, 
signed the conditions of life ; but they are still more 
to be pit/ied. They achieve their redemption, not on 
the way of virtue, but on a path of their own ; and 
they are saved, not by works, but by faith. 

Men of no genius whatever cannot bear solitude : 
they take no pleasure in the contemplation of nature 
and the world. This arises from the fact that they never 
lose sight of their own will, and therefore they see 
nothing of the objects of the world but the bearing of 
such objects upon their will and person. With objects 
which have no such bearing there sounds within them 
a constant note : It is nothing to me, which is the 
fundamental base in all their music. Thus all things 
seem to them to wear a bleak, gloomy, strange, hostile 
aspect. It is only for their will that they seem to have 

8 



106 GENIUS AND VIKTUE. 

any perceptive faculties at all ; and it is, in fact, only 
a moral and not a theoretical tendency, only a moral 
and not an intellectual value, that their life possesses. 
The lower animals bend their heads to the ground, 
because all that they want to see is what touches their 
welfare, and they can never come to contemplate 
things from a really objective point of view. It is 
very seldom that unintellectual men make a true use 
of their erect position, and then it is only when 
they are moved by some intellectual influence outside 
them. 

The man of intellect or genius, on the other hand, 
has more of the character of the eternal subject that 
knows, than of the finite subject that wills ; his know- 
ledge is not quite engrossed and captivated by his 
will, but passes beyond it ; he is the son, not of the 
bondwoman, but of the free. It is not only a moral 
but also a theoretical tendency that is evinced in his 
life ; nay, it might perhaps be said that to a certain 
extent he is beyond morality. Of great villainy he is 
totally incapable ; and his conscience is less oppressed 
by ordinary ain than the conscience of the ordinary 
man, because life, as it were, is a game, and he sees 
through it. 

The relation between genius and virtue is deter- 
mined by the following considerations. Vice is an 
impulse of the will so violent in its demands that it 
affirms its own life by denying the life of others. The 
only kind of knowledge that is useful to the will is 
the knowledge that a given effect is produced by a 
certain cause. Genius itself is a kind of knowledge, 
namely, of ideas; and it is a knowledge which ifl 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 107 

Unconcerned with any principle of causation. The 
man who is devoted to knowledge of this character is 
not employed in the business of the will. Nay, every 
man who is devoted to the purely objective con- 
templation of the world (and it is this that is meant 
by the knowledge of ideas) completely loses sight of 
his will and its objects, and pays no further regard to 
the interests of his own person, but becomes a pure 
intelligence free of any admixture of will. 

Where, then, devotion to the intellect predominates 
over concern for the will and its objects, it shows 
that the man's will is not the principal element in his 
being, but that in proportion to his intelligence it is 
weak. Violent desire, which is the root of all vice, 
never allows a man to arrive at the pure and disinter- 
ested contemplation of the world, free from any rela- 
tion to the will, such as constitutes the quality of 
genius ; but here the intelligence remains the constant 
slave of the will. 

Since genius consists in the perception of ideas, and 
men of genius contemplate their object, it may be 
said that it is only the eye which is any real evidence 
of genius. For the contemplative gaze has something 
steady and vivid about it ; and with the eye of genius 
it is often the case, as with Goethe, that the white 
membrane over the pupil is visible. With violent, 
passionate men the same thing may also happen, but 
it arises from a different cause, and may be easily 
distinguished by the fact that the eyes roll. Men 
of no genius at all have no interest in the idea 
expressed by an object, but only in the relations in 
which that object stands to others, and finally to their 



108 GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 

own person. Thus it is that they never indulge in 
contemplation, or are soon done with it, and rarely 
fix their eyes long upon any object ; and so their eyes 
do not wear the mark of genius which I have de- 
scribed. Nay, the regular Philistine does the direct 
opposite of contemplating he spies. If he looks at 
anything it is to pry into it ; as may be specially ob- 
served when he screws up his eyes, which he frequently 
does, in order to see the clearer. Certainly, no real 
man of genius ever does this, at least habitually, even 
though he is short-sighted. 

What I have said will sufficiently illustrate the 
conflict between genius and vice. It may be, how- 
ever, nay, it is often the case, that genius is attended 
by a strong will ; and as little as men of genius were 
ever consummate rascals, were they ever perhaps 
perfect saints either. 

Let me explain. Virtue is not exactly a positive 
weakness of the will; it is, rather, an intentional 
restraint imposed upon its violence through a know- 
ledge of it in its inmost being as manifested in the 
world. This knowledge of the world, the inmost 
being of which is communicable only in ideas, is 
common both to the genius and to the saint. The 
distinction between the two is that the genius reveals 
his knowledge by rendering it in some form of his 
own choice, and the product is Art. For this the 
saint, as such, possesses no direct faculty ; he makes 
an immediate application of his knowledge to his own 
will, which is thus led into a denial of the world. 
With the saint knowledge is only a means to an end, 
whereas the genius remains at the stage of know- 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 109 

ledge, and has his pleasure in it, and reveals it by 
rendering what he knows in his art. 

In the hierarchy of physical organisation, strength 
of will is attended by a corresponding growth in the 
intelligent faculties. A high degree of knowledge, 
such as exists in the genius, presupposes a powerful 
will, though, at the same time, a will that is sub- 
ordinate to the intellect. In other words, both the 
intellect and the will are strong, but the intellect is 
the stronger of the two. Unless, as happens in the case 
of the saint, the intellect is at once applied to the 
will, or, as in the case of the artist, it finds its 
pleasures in a reproduction of itself, the will remains 
untamed. Any strength that it may lose is due to 
the predominance of the pure objective intelligence 
which is concerned with the contemplation of ideas, 
and is not, as in the case of the common or the bad 
man, wholly occupied with the objects of the will. 
In the interval, when the genius is no longer engaged 
in the contemplation of ideas, and his intelligence is 
again applied to the will and its objects, the will is 
re-awakened in all its strength. Thus it is that men 
of genius often have very violent desires, and are 
addicted to sensual pleasure and to anger. Great 
crimes, however, they do not commit ; because, when 
the opportunity of them offers, they recognise their 
idea, and see it very vividly and clearly. Their 
intelligence is thus directed to the idea, and so gains 
the predominance over the will, and turns its course, 
as with the saint ; and the crime is uncommitted. 

The genius, then, always participates to some 
degree in the characteristic of the saint, as he is a 



110 GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 

man of the same qualification ; and, coritrarily, the 
saint always participates to some degree in the char- 
acteristics of the genius. 

The good-natured character, which is common, is to 
be distinguished from the saintly by the fact that it 
consists in a weakness of will, with a somewhat less 
marked weakness of intellect. A lower degree of the 
knowledge of the world as revealed in ideas here 
suffices to check and control a will that is weak in 
itself. Genius and sanctity are far removed from 
good-nature, which is essentially weak in all its mani- 
festations. 

Apart from all that I have said, so much at least is 
clear. What appears under the forms of time, space, 
and causality, and vanishes again, and in reality is 
nothing, and reveals its nothingness by death this 
vicious and fatal appearance is the will. But what 
does not appear, and is no phenomenon, but rather 
the noumenon; what makes appearance possible; 
what is not subject to the principle of causation, and 
therefore has no vain or vanishing existence, but 
abides for ever unchanged in the midst of a world 
full of suffering, like a ray of light in a storm, free, 
therefore, from all pain and fatality, this, I say, is 
the intelligence. The man who is more intelligence 
than will, is thereby delivered, in respect of the 
greatest part of him, from nothingness and death; 
and such a man is in his nature a genius. 

By the very fact that he lives and works, the man 
who is endowed with genius makes an entire sacrifice 
of himself in the interests of everyone. Accordingly, 
he is free from the obligation to make a particular 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE, 111 

sacrifice for individuals ; and thus he can refuse many 
demands which others are rightly required to meet. 
He suffers and achieves more than all the others. 

The spring which moves the genius to elaborate his 
works is not fame, for that is too uncertain a quality, 
and when it is seen at close quarters, of little worth. 
No amount of fame will make up for the labour of 
attaining it : 

Nulla- estfctma tuum par cequiparare laborem. 

Nor is it the delight that a man has in his work ; for 
that too is outweighed by the effort which he has to 
make. It is, rather, an instinct sui generis ; in virtue 
of which the genius is driven to express what he sees 
and feels in some permanent shape, without being 
conscious of any further motive. 

It is manifest that in so far as it leads an individual 
to sacrifice himself for his species, and to live more in 
the species than in himself, this impulse is possessed 
of a certain resemblance with such modifications of 
the sexual impulse as are peculiar to man. The 
modifications to which I refer are those that confine 
this impulse to certain individuals of the other sex, 
whereby the interests of the species are attained. 
The individuals who are actively affected by this 
impulse may be said to sacrifice themselves for the 
species, by their passion for each other, and the 
disadvantageous conditions thereby imposed upon 
them, in a word, by the institution of marriage. 
They may be said to be serving the interests of the 
species, rather than the interests of the individual. 

The instinct of the genius does, in a higher fashion, 



112 GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 

for the idea, what passionate love does for the will. 
In both cases there are peculiar pleasures and peculiar 
pains reserved for the individuals who in this way 
serve the interests of the species ; and they live in a 
state of enhanced power. 

The genius who decides once for all to live for the 
interests of the species in the way which he chooses 
is neither fitted nor called upon to do it in the other. 
It is a curious fact that the perpetuation of a man's 
name is effected in both ways. 

In music the finest compositions are the most 
difficult to understand. They are only for the trained 
intelligence. They consist of long movements, where 
it is only after a labyrinthine maze that the funda- 
mental note is recovered. It is just so with genius ; it 
is only after a course of struggle, and doubt, and error, 
and much reflection and vacillation, that great minds 
attain their equilibrium. It is the longest pendulum 
that makes the greatest swing. Little minds soon 
come to terms with themselves and the world, and 
then fossilise ; but the others flourish, and are always 
alive and in motion. 

The essence of genius is a measure of intellectual 
power far beyond that which is required to serve the 
individual's will. But it is a measure of a merely 
relative character, and it may be reached by lowering 
the degree of the will, as well as by raising that of 
the intellect. There are men whose intellect pre- 
dominates over their will, and are yet not possessed of 
genius in any proper sense. Their intellectual powers 
do, indeed, exceed the ordinary, though not to any 
great extent, but their will is weak. They have no 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 113 

violent desires ; and therefore they are more concerned 
with mere knowledge than with the satisfaction of 
any aims. Such men possess talent ; they are intelli- 
gent, and at the same time very contented and 
cheerful. 

A clear, cheerful and reasonable mind, such as 
brings a man happiness, is dependent on the relation 
established between his intellect and his will a 
relation in which the intellect is predominant. But 
genius and a great mind depend on the relation 
between a man's intellect and that of other people a 
relation in which his intellect must exceed theirs, and 
at the same time his will may also be proportionately 
stronger. That is the reason why genius and happi- 
ness need not necessarily exist together. 

When the individual is distraught by cares or 
pleasantry, or tortured by the violence of his wishes 
and desires, the genius in him is enchained and cannot 
movo. It is only when care and desire are silent 
that the air is free enough for genius to live in it. It 
is then that the bonds of matter are cast aside, and 
the pure spirit the pure, knowing subject remains. 
Hence, if a man has any genius, let him guard himself 
from pain, keep care at a distance, and limit his 
desires ; but those of them which he cannot suppress 
let him satisfy to the full. This is the only way in 
which he will make the best use of his rare existence, 
to his own pleasure and the world's profit. 

To fight with need and care or desires, the satisfac- 
tion of which is refused and forbidden, is good enough 
work for those who, were they free of them, would 
have to fight with boredom, and so take to bad practices; 



114 GENIUS AND VIHTtTE. 

but not for the man whose time, if well used, will bear 
fruit for centuries to come. As Diderot says, he is not 
merely a moral being. 

Mechanical laws do not apply in the sphere of 
chemistry, nor do chemical laws in the sphere in which 
organic life is kindled. In the same way, the rules 
which avail for ordinary men will not do for the 
exceptions, nor will their pleasures either. 

It is a persistent, uninterrupted activity that con- 
stitutes the superior mind. The object to which this 
activity is directed is a matter of subordinate import- 
ance ; it has no essential bearing on the superiority in 
question, but only on the individual who possesses it. 
All that education can do is to determine the direction 
which this activity shall take ; and that is the reason 
why a man's nature is so much more important than 
his education. For education is to natural faculty 
what a wax nose is to a real one ; or what the moon 
and the planets are to the sun. In virtue of his educa- 
tion a man says, not what he thinks himself, but what 
others have thought and he has learned as a matter of 
training; and what he does is not what he wants, 
but what he has been accustomed, to do. 

The lower animals perform many intelligent func- 
tions much better than man ; for instance, the finding 
of their way back to the place from which they came, 
the recognition of individuals, and so on. In the 
same way, there are many occasions in real life to 
which the genius is incomparably less equal and 
fitted than the ordinary man. Nay more: just as 
animals never commit a folly in the strict sense 



GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 115 

of the word, so the average man is not exposed to 
folly in the same degree as the genius. 

The average man is wholly relegated to the sphere 
of being ; the genius, on the other hand, lives and 
moves chiefly in the sphere of knowledge. This gives 
rise to a twofold distinction. In the first place, a man 
can be one thing only, but he may know countless 
things, and thereby, to some extent, identify himself 
with them, by participating in what Spinoza calls their 
esse objectivum. In the second place, the world, as I 
have elsewhere observed, is fine enough in appearance, 
but in reality dreadful ; for torment is the condition of 
all life. 

It follows from the first of these distinctions that 
the life of the average man is essentially one of the 
greatest boredom ; and thus we see the rich warring 
against boredom with as much effort and as little 
respite as fall to the poor in their struggle with need 
and adversity. And from the second of them it 
follows that the life of the average man is overspread 
with a dull, turbid, uniform gravity ; whilst the brow 
of genius glows with mirth of a unique character, 
which, although he has sorrows of his own more 
poignant than those of the average man, nevertheless 
breaks out afresh, like the sun through clouds. It is 
when the genius is overtaken by an affliction which 
affects others as well as himself, that this quality in 
him is most in evidence ; for then he is seen to be like 
man, who alone can laugh, in comparison with the 
beast of the field, which lives out its life grave and 
dull. 

It is the curse of the genius that in the same 



116 GENIUS AND VIRTUE. 

measure in which others think him great and worthy 
of admiration, he thinks them small and miserable 
creatures. His whole life long he has to suppress 
this opinion ; and, as a rule, they suppress theirs as 
well. Meanwhile, he is condemned to live in a bleak 
world, where he meets no equal, as it were an island 
where there are no inhabitants but monkeys and 
parrots. Moreover, he is always troubled by the 
illusion that from a distance a monkey looks like a 
man. 

Vulgar people take a huge delight in the faults and 
follies of great men; and great men are equally 
annoyed at being thus reminded of their kinship 
with them. 

The real dignity of a man of genius or great 
intellect, the trait which raises him over others and 
makes him worthy of respect, is at bottom the 
fact, that the only unsullied and innocent part of 
human nature, namely, the intellect, has the upper 
hand in him, and prevails ; whereas, in the other there 
is nothing but sinful will, and just as much intellect 
as is requisite for guiding his steps, rarely any more, 
very often somewhat less, and of what use is it ? 

It seems to me that genius might have its root in a 
certain perfection and vividness of the memory as it 
stretches back over the events of past life. For it is 
only by dint of memory, which makes our life in the 
strict sense a complete whole, that we attain a more 
profound and comprehensive understanding of it. 

THE END, 



117 



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